Year

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Law

Abstract

Science and technology has developed considerably and discovered lots of new ideas for the benefit of humankind. The advancement of DNA technology has contributed significantly to various fields. Forensic use of DNA information has great potential to assist in the delivery of justice. At the same time ‘human rights and privacy violations’ as well as ‘other challenges’ that exist in relation to its use cannot be ignored. Therefore the forensic use of genetic information has created two major mutually dependent yet sometimes opposing contexts — one is ensuring justice by protecting public interest and security, and the other is protecting human rights and privacy of the data subject.

This thesis, therefore, explores the implications of one of the most successful (yet not universally accepted or uncontroversial) developments of science and technology: the forensic use of DNA information in the justice delivery system. The thesis examines the issue via two case studies, one of the National DNA database (NDNAD) of the UK, and the other of the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory (NFDPL) of Bangladesh, representing developed and developing countries respectively. These case studies reveal the intentions of governments in the use of the technology and the establishment of the associated databases. The views of ordinary people regarding emerging challenges are also canvassed both in the context of the developed and developing countries. More specifically, the thesis addresses the following central questions: ‘Are there any human rights and privacy violations?’; ‘To what extent are developing countries concerned about the issues of human rights and genetic privacy violations?’; and ‘How can any gaps between developed and developing countries be minimised?’. It also considers whether the international community is considering these issues as emerging threats to sustainable development, the enforcement of justice, and to international human rights norms.

The main argument developed in this thesis is that there is some scope for human rights and privacy violations while using human DNA data for the justice delivery purposes, though the nature and scope of such violations differ to some extent depending upon the DNA facility selected (that is, the NDNAD or the NFDPL).

Some financial-technological and administrative challenges are also revealed by the analysis of these case studies. Findings in this thesis suggest that since both the forensic use of DNA information is vital for detecting criminals and exonerating the innocent; however, at the same time, such use should not compromise human rights and privacy protection. Taking an ‘absolute’ approach to combating crime or to maintaining human rights in that context is fruitless. Neither one nor the other can prevail absolutely and to the detriment of the other. Time and again, it is a question of ‘balance’ or ‘proportionality’. In such a situation, the present study makes a number of specific recommendations in regard to encouraging and reinforcing the proper utilisation of genetic information in the justice delivery system. Among these recommendations, the author of this thesis considered that the confidence of data subject in the system is crucial; this is because a trustworthy system helps ensure justice and enhances social harmony. The possible solutions to these human rights and other challenges (such as resource levels and so on), of course, depend on the country context, as well as political will and/or policy of the government. Governments and the international community should consider all these factors when looking at and making recommendations for the exploding growth of forensic use of DNA data and databases in the justice delivery system, and acting upon those recommendations.

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