Ex­perts: DNA sam­ples not nec­es­sary

New Straits Times - - News -

KUALA LUMPUR: Au­thor­i­ties can de­pend en­tirely on sec­ondary ev­i­dence to of­fi­cially “iden­tify” Kim Jong-nam with­out hav­ing to wait for DNA sam­ples from his next of kin, to match his.

Ex­perts say the law al­lows for this, pro­vided that all the sec­ondary ev­i­dence could be sup­ported by strong ev­i­dence to trace it to Jong-nam, who was as­sas­si­nated in klia2 on Feb 13.

Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat, psychologist and crim­i­nol­o­gist of Univer­siti Sains Malaysia, said Sec­tions 63 and 65 of the Ev­i­dence Act 1950 pro­vided that sec­ondary ev­i­dence would be ad­mis­si­ble as ev­i­dence in court un­der spe­cific cir­cum­stances.

“Gen­er­ally, the use of sec­ondary ev­i­dence is ad­mis­si­ble if the orig­i­nal (doc­u­ment or in­for­ma­tion) is pub­lic and the law al­lows for its pro­duc­tion.

“If the per­son (wit­ness) has seen the orig­i­nal or a copy of the ev­i­dence fur­nished that had been com­pared with the orig­i­nal, it is ad­mis­si­ble, too,” she told the New

Straits Times.

The Ev­i­dence Act also per­mits the use of oral ac­counts of the con­tents of a doc­u­ment given by a per­son who “has him­self seen” or “heard it” or “per­ceived it by what­ever means”.

In cases where the de­ceased had been iden­ti­fied via an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment, like a pass­port or an as­sumed name, Geshina said, there was still a need for the au­thor­i­ties to make sure that the sec­ondary ev­i­dence was trace­able to the cor­rect name and pre­sumed name.

Geshina was asked to com­ment on the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing sec­ondary ev­i­dence to iden­tify the body of Jong-nam if his next of kin failed to show up to pro­vide DNA sam­ples.

On Feb 17, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi con­firmed that it was Jong-nam who was killed at the de­par­ture hall of klia2 on Feb 13.

Jong-nam was, how­ever, trav­el­ling on a North Korean diplo­matic pass­port un­der the name “Kim Chol”.

Foren­sics science ex­pert As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Dr Za­fa­rina Zain­ud­din said DNA test­ing was not nec­es­sar­ily the main source of pri­mary iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for hu­man re­mains, if the body of the de­ceased had yet to de­com­pose.

“We don’t have to do a DNA test­ing if we can iden­tify the de­ceased us­ing phys­i­cal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion meth­ods.

“In foren­sics iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, there are three lev­els — the phys­i­cal (iden­ti­fi­ca­tion) where the per­son’s face can be recog­nised and match­ing can be done, checks on the per­son’s im­plants, and the birth­marks, which must be unique enough for the fam­ily mem­bers of the de­ceased to pos­i­tively iden­tify him.

“Then, there is the match­ing of den­tal records. A match in den­tal or fin­ger­print records would pro­duce a defini­tive re­sult,” Dr Za­fa­rina, the head of USM’s School of Health Sciences’ Hu­man Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion/DNA Unit, said.

She said the re­sult of the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion process would be con­sid­ered “con­clu­sive” if sev­eral of the sec­ondary iden­ti­fiers matched the sub­ject.

“If all meth­ods fail, only then the DNA op­tion comes in... DNA test­ing is not the pri­mary form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for the de­ceased, es­pe­cially if the body is in­tact or recog­nis­able.

“The cred­i­bil­ity of the ref­er­ence sam­ple is the is­sue in DNA iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. There had been prece­dents where the child of a de­ceased man (who pro­vided the re­fer­ral sam­ple) turned out to be some­one else’s,” she said, adding that, how­ever, if the ref­er­ence sam­ple was well es­tab­lished, the re­sults of DNA iden­ti­fi­ca­tion would be 99.99 per cent ac­cu­rate.

Dr Za­fa­rina also said the au­thor­i­ties must en­sure the sta­tus of Jong-nam’s next of kin, in the event he pre­sented him­self to pro­vide a re­fer­ral DNA sam­ple or iden­tify his body.

“We have to be sure of this per­son’s cred­i­bil­ity. This per­son must de­scribe unique fea­tures, in­clud­ing birth­marks, on the de­ceased.”

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