International conference ‘Contemporary methods to identify missing persons’

On 15th – 16th September 2021, the ITAKA Foundation together with the University of Warmia and Mazury and the University of Warsaw held an international conference ‘Contemporary methods to identify missing persons’. The event gathered experts from Poland, Russia, Germany, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Croatia.  The conference was held online.

In today’s world it seems absolutely impossible for a person to go missing. Every year, however, Polish police receives 13 thousand reports of this kind. Reasons of disappearances are very different and specific to age groups. According to the statistics, in 90-95% of cases missing people are found or information on what happened to them can be obtained. It is possible thanks to the work of search and identification specialists as well as continuous advancement in science, technology and medicine.

Due to the breadth of the subject, three sessions have been included in the conference programme. The first one focused on criminological and legal aspects of search for missing persons. Presenters discussed the most effective methods to search for missing people and aspects negatively influencing the process. The situation of missing people with respect to legal issues in neighbouring countries – Germany, Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia – was analysed. 

During the second session, concerning methods to identify unknown persons, corpses and human remains, the floor was taken by forensic medicine experts. Conference participants could hear about challenges in corpse identification faced by a forensic scientist and the role of genetic testing, odontological analysis and 3D imagining in identification of unknown bodies.

The second day of the conference was devoted to the analysis of perspectives for the development of missing person search and identification methods. The speakers, who deal with various aspects of disappearances on a daily basis, talked about how technological and digitisation advances have influenced activities related to the various stages of search and identification of missing persons. Presentations covered, among others, the SARUAV system for automatic detection of people in aerial photographs, new generation sequencing applications and identification of digital traces. 

The session was closed with a lecture on psychological challenges faced by law enforcement officers in contact with families of missing persons. Each session ended with a discussion. The issues were discussed by theoreticians and practitioners in the search for missing persons and identification of bodies.

– On behalf of conference organisers I would like to thank all presenters and attendees. Scientific disciplines dealing with disappearances and identification are constantly evolving. It is therefore very important that those who are professionally involved in the search improve their qualifications and develop their knowledge, said Alicja Tomaszewska, president of the ITAKA Foundation. 

Moreover, during the conference the website, devoted to the GOSPOSTRATEG programme was presented. GOSPOSTRATEG is a strategic research and development programme of the National Centre for Research and Development ‘Social and economic development of Poland in globalizing markets’.

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