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The development of forensic DNA analysis: new debates on the issue of fundamental human rights
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-21, 07:47 authored by Tersia OosthuizenTersia Oosthuizen, Loene HowesLoene Howes
Before the advent of forensic DNA profiling, forensic techniques such as fingerprint examination and blood type comparison were used in the identification of suspects. DNA profiling has since become the gold standard of forensic science, and forensic DNA analysis techniques continue to evolve. Recent developments such as familial searching and phenotyping have raised ethical questions and concerns reflecting those expressed in the late 1980s when forensic DNA analysis was first introduced. At that time, attempts to use DNA evidence in criminal trials were met with challenges to its evidential value and admissibility. A common concern was whether the probative value of the evidence would outweigh its potentially prejudicial effect. This gave rise to a complex three-way debate, which revolved around first, the admissibility of the scientific principles in criminal courts; second, the scientific process involved in analysing DNA samples; and third, the impact that forensic DNA analysis may have on fundamental human rights. Ultimately, debates about the scientific process and the admissibility of such evidence in criminal trials overshadowed the debate about potential infringements of fundamental human rights. This resulted in a lack of critical discussion around the erosion of civil liberties through the use of scientific technologies. This paper revisits the early debates on the development of forensic DNA analysis. It draws parallels with current developments and analyses the potential for current and future human rights infringements, highlighting that the libertarian model offers a necessary counterbalance to the other arguments, due to its concern for maintaining fundamental rights.
Publication titleForensic Science International: Genetics
Department/SchoolSchool of Social Sciences
Place of publicationNetherlands
Rights statementCopyright 2021 Elsevier B.V.