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UAE: Government to create DNA database of all residents, starting with children

October 7, 2009 |  9:08 am

DNA_orbit_animated_static_thumb.gif Within a year, the United Arab Emirates will become the first country to begin building a national DNA database of all residents, the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper reported today.

Authorities say the program will help solve and prevent crimes, but critics see the database as a potentially dangerous violation of civil liberties, especially because the program is expected to be initiated as a security directive, thus bypassing the legislative process entirely.

Dr. Ahmed Marzooqi, the program's director, said lab technicians will begin swabbing cheeks of the general public as soon as the infrastructure is in place, starting with priority groups like minors.

“Most criminals start when they are young," Marzooqi said. "If we can identify them at that age, then we can help in their rehabilitation before the level of their crimes increase."

But Sir Alec Jeffreys, the British geneticist who invented the technology, questioned the ethics of the UAE's planned database, calling for a “full transparent justification of why a universal database is needed compared with a criminal DNA database." 

The National points out that although the UAE is home to a large and transient expatriate population, the DNA profiles would be stored in the database indefinitely, and that some information could be shared with other governments or Interpol, depending on specific treaties or cooperation agreements.

Marzooqi maintained the government is taking privacy concerns very seriously, and will implement "strict usage rules and will take secondary tests in court cases to verify the identity matches.”

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Image: DNA detail. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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