DNA on trial: judicial use of science as a threat to human rights

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Sales, Tiphane
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A society without crimes is an ideal that all States like to reach. However, could it be done by any means? Modern technologies are helpful for identifying and pursuing suspects under criminal investigations. The Deoxoribonuleic Acid (DNA) molecule has the extraordinary property to be both specific to an individual and common to the species. Thus, DNA identification techniques are used for investigation purposes. The leading country which applies this method is the United Kingdom. However, genetic information is also private and sensitive. How could DNA fingerprinting be used in respect of fundamental rights? Is DNA as an evidence of guilt really reliable? The balance between State’s interests and individual’s rights is challenged from the collection to the retention of DNA samples. Furthermore, DNA could give other information not merely for identification purposes. Intelligence on familial relationships, ethnical origins, or health predispositions could be disclosed. Should the police have the power to conduct such speculative searches? The United Kingdom did not always act in proportion and necessity towards those concerned. Its legislation has been very lax and is now about to change following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the 2008 S and Marper case. However, the practices still remain unchanged on the field and the trend to extend DNA profiling from the suspects to the citizens has been raised on several occasions.
Second semester University: New University of Lisbon
judicial system, right of privacy, DNA fingerprints