Institute of National Remembrance uses FBI tools in human remains identification

Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) specialists use the Combined DNA Identification System (CODIS) - a tool of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - to identify victims of totalitarian regimes. The main purpose of the CODIS system is the collection and automatic comparison of DNA profiles to determine the genetic identification of human remains.

IPN specialists from the Search and Identification Office use CODIS in connection with the IPN Genetic Material Database, which is a collection of data and information, including DNA data of victims found during the searches conducted by the IPN.

“Until now, the comparison of genetic material - performed in external laboratories - was possible only in the case of having a certain ‘clue’, i.e. a specific assignment of the remains to a wanted person or to a closed collection of victims. It is a highly imperfect method. The CODIS system, to put it simply, compares ‘everything with everything’. Systematically searches the database of the collected bone and comparative material in terms of possible kinship,” Deputy Director of the IPN Search and Identification Office, attorney Anna Szeląg said.

However, the measure of CODIS’ success is its vast database containing DNA profiles found on bone material from victims and comparative material from their families. This means that the more genetic profiles there are in the IPN database, the greater the probability of further identifications.

With each extension of the resources of the Genetic Material Database, the chance of further identifications increases.

The Institute applied for access to some functionalities of the Combined DNA Index System in 2017, obtaining the consent of the FBI director a year later. The Institute has been using CODIS since autumn 2019.