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MEDIA ADVISORY: DNA and Human Rights Conference

ATTENTION: City Desks, Legal Affairs and Science Writers

23 April 2001
Contact: Media Relations
(510) 642-3734


"DNA and Human Rights," the first-ever international conference to examine the enormous benefits of DNA testing to alleviate the suffering of human rights victims.

The two-day event will focus on the forensic investigation of mass graves and identification of the disappeared, identity restoration to reunite families separated by state violence, and the application of DNA technology in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Human rights lawyers and activists, forensic specialists, ethicists and scientists will participate, some from Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, Bosnia and Zimbabwe. In addition, individuals whose lives were altered by DNA testing will give testimonials.


Thursday and Friday, April 26 and 27, from 9 a.m.- 6:30 p.m.


The University of California, Berkeley's Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center.


In addition to representations from organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Innocence Project and Forensic Sciences Associates, and from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the following individuals will testify:

* Adriana Portillo-Bartow, who lost seven members of her family, including her 9- and 10-year-old daughters, to the war in Guatemala. In 1999, she founded an organization that seeks the whereabouts of more than 5,000 children who disappeared during the war.

* Jennifer Thompson, a victim of rape at age 22, who accused the wrong man. Post-trial DNA testing set the record straight. Thompson now is a member of the Center on Wrongful Convictions' Speakers Bureau and favors a moratorium on the death penalty.

* Herman Atkins, who was convicted in 1988 of rape and armed robbery but released from prison after DNA testing.


Although the development of DNA technology has intensified in recent years, its potential application in the field of human rights remains largely unrealized. Yet, DNA-based identifications of victims of human rights abuses have increasingly become headline news. This conference will examine not only how DNA technology is altering victims' lives, but also its ethical and moral implications.