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Forensic approach to investigation of human right violations
By Prof. Dr. Matko Marušić | Published  08/3/2007 | Human Rights , Croatians in B&H , Science | Unrated
Forensic science and human rights

Marija Definis-Gojanović, Davorka Sutlović

Skeletal Remains from a Mass Grave

during World War II:

from Discovery to Identification

Scientific article published in Croatian Medical Journal, 2007; 48

Aim To present the process of identification of skeletal remains from a mass grave found on a Dalmatian mountain-range in 2005;  which allegedly contained the remains of civilians from Herzegovina killed in the World War II, including a group of 8 Franciscan monks.

Methods Excavation of site in Dalmatian hinterland, near the village of Zagvozd, was accomplished according to archeological procedures. Anthropological analysis was performed to estimate sex, age at death, and height of the individuals, as well as pathological and traumatic changes of the bones. Due to the lack of ante-mortem data, DNA typing using Y-chromosome was performed. DNA was isolated from bones and teeth samples using standard phenol/chloroform/ isoamyl alcohol extraction. Two Y-chromosome short tandem repeats (STR) systems were used for DNA quantification and amplification. Typing of PCR products was performed on an ABI Prism 310 Genetic Analyzer. PCR typing results were matched with results from DNA analysis of samples collected from the relatives of supposed missing persons; the specimens included blood samples from the living relatives, as well as bone samples collected during further exhumations of died parents or relatives of those presumptive individuals.

The whole article

Results The remains contained 18 almost complete skeletons, with considerable post-mortal damages. All remains were men, mainly middle-aged, with gunshot wounds to the head. DNA analysis and cross-matching of the results with relatives-data resulted in three positive identifications using the Y-STR systems. All of the positively identified remains belonged to the Franciscan friars allegedly killed in Herzegovina and buried at the analyzed site.

Conclusion The results of our analysis of remains from a mass grave supposedly from the World War II confirms the value of patrilineal lineage based on Y chromosome STRs, even in cases where the missing persons did not have offspring, such as Franciscan monks. Although this report is primarily focused to the
problem of finding missing persons through the identification of remains from a common grave, it also emphasizes the role of forensic approach to investigation of mass graves in the scope of documentation the human right violations.

The whole article

Correspondence to:
Marija Definis-Gojanović
Department of Forensic Medicine
Split University Hospital and School of Medicine
Spinčićeva 1
21000 Split, Croatia

A scholarly research closely related to the above is


DNA Identification of Skeletal Remains from the World War II Mass Graves Uncovered in Slovenia [Source]

written by

Damir Marjanović1,2, Adaleta Durmić-Pašić1, Narcisa Bakal1, Sanin Haverić1, Belma Kalamujić1, Lejla Kovačević1, Jasmin Ramić1, Naris Pojskić1, Vedrana Škaro2, Petar Projić2, Kasim Bajrović1, Rifat Hadžiselimović1, Katja Drobnič3, Ed Huffine4, Jon Davoren4, Dragan Primorac5,6

1Institute for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology, Sarajevo,
Bosnia and Herzegovina
2Department of Molecular Medicine,
Forensic Genetics Group,
Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb, Croatia
3Forensic Laboratory and Research
Center, Ministry of Interior,
Ljubljana, Slovenia
4Bode Technology Group Inc,
Springfield, Va, USA
5Osijek University School of Medicine,
Osijek, Croatia
6Split University School of Medicine,
Split, Croatia

Aim To present the joint effort of three institutions in the identification of human remains from the World War II found in two mass graves in the area of Škofja Loka, Slovenia.

Methods The remains of 27 individuals were found in two small
and closely located mass graves. The DNA was isolated from bone and teeth samples using either standard phenol/chloroform alcohol extraction or optimized Qiagen DNA extraction procedure. Some recovered samples required the employment of additional DNA purification methods, such as N-buthanol treatment. QuantifilerTM Human DNA Quantification Kit was used for DNA quantification. PowerPlex 16 kit was used to simultaneously amplify 15 short tandem repeat (STR) loci. Matching probabilities were estimated using the DNA View program.

Results Out of all processed samples, 15 remains were fully profiled at all 15 STR loci. The other 12 profiles were partial. The least successful profile included 13 loci. Also, 69 referent samples (buccal swabs) from potential living relatives were collected and profiled. Comparison of victims-profile against referent samples database resulted in 4 strong matches. In addition, 5 other profiles were matched to certain referent samples with lower probability.

Conclusion Our results show that more than 6 decades after the
end of the World War II, DNA analysis may significantly contribute to the identification of the remains from that period. Additional analysis of Y-STRs and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers will be performed in the second phase of the identification project.

Correspondence to:
Damir Marjanović
Kemalbegova 10
71000 Sarajevo,
Bosnia and Herzegovina

The whole article: Croat Med J. 2007;48

Formated for CROWN by prof.dr. Darko Žubrinić
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