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Netherlands: Proposal on DNA Relationship Testing in Criminal Justice Adopted by Senate

(Dec. 14, 2011) The Upper House of the Dutch Parliament (Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal) agreed on November 22, 2011, to the use of DNA relationship tests by the police and the Public Prosecution Service in crime-fighting. By means of such tests, it can be determined whether a relative of the person whose DNA is sampled is a potential criminal offender. In the view of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, application of the tests “is urgently needed in the field.” (Press Release, Ministry of Security and Justice, Senate Agrees to DNA Relationship Test (Nov. 22, 2011).) The proposal that was adopted amends the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Law on DNA Testing of Convicts. (32.168 DNA-verwantschapsonderzoek in het strafrecht [DNA Relationship Testing in Criminal Justice], First Chamber of the States-General website (last visited Dec. 9, 2011).)

A suspect's identity may yet be established or a potential suspect may be excluded through the use of a relationship test under specific circumstances, according to a Ministry press release, but only in cases where a standard DNA test has no result. Because half of a cell's hereditary material is identical to that of the father and the other half to that of the mother, so that relatives' DNA profiles are in some degree a match, “a comparison of the DNA profile of a known person with the DNA profile of a trace secured from an unsolved crime may indicate whether the trace can be from a relative of that person,” information that may be useful in criminal investigations. (Id.)

Specific conditions are required for the application of relationship testing. For example, the press release points out, it is only permitted to use in such a test the DNA profiles of suspects and convicted persons “if the trace contains a full or sufficiently informative DNA profile”; if a written authorization of the investigating judge for use of the profiles for the test has been obtained; and if the test is done in connection with the investigation “of a very serious violent or sexual offence.” As the press release further states, the extra safeguards are vital, given “the drastic nature of this authority with regard to the privacy of the persons involved.” (Id.)

Relationships commonly tested by means of DNA tests are paternity, maternity, and full- or half-sibling relationships; it is not possible to reliably prove more distant relationships based on the tests, according to a document on relationship testing in immigrant visa procedures prepared by the U.S. State Department. (DNA Relationship Testing Procedures, TRAVEL.STATE.GOV (last visited Dec. 9, 2011).)