GeneWatch UK today responded to comments by the UK Forensic Science Service (FSS) regarding its contracts to put the entire population of the United Arab Emirates on a DNA database. The government-owned FSS told the Public Service website that the ethical aspect was for the United Arab Emirates to comment on because they only did the science (1). Prince Andrew also denied responsibility, saying he was asked by government to witness the signing of the contract in Abu Dhabi in January 2006 and played no role in its negotiation.
"'If not me, who? If not now, when?' applies equally to scientists and members of the Royal Family," said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, "We are all responsible for protecting human rights".
GeneWatch also called for the roles of then Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in negotiating the contracts to be investigated. A second contract with UAE was signed following a statement that everyone in Britain should be on a DNA database, made by Blair when visiting the FSS in October 2006 (2).
"Blair and Straw must have played a leading role in negotiating these contracts. Who was Blair's speech directed at?" said Dr Wallace, "But this does not excuse the scientists at the FSS or the Royal Family. Protecting human rights depends on people speaking out, not standing by and doing nothing".
The FSS response follows a joint press release by GeneWatch UK, the Council for Responsible Genetics (USA) and Privacy International (3). The organisations are concerned about the implications of the database for dissidents because it could be used to track the whereabouts of individuals and their relatives. Familial searching of the database could also endanger women by revealing non-paternity. Adultery is a criminal offence in UAE, which can be punished by imprisonment and flogging, including in cases where women have reported rape (4).
GeneWatch has written to the current Foreign Secretary, William Hague calling for the contracts to be cancelled. The organisation has also asked the Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Andrew Miller, MP, to investigate the contracts as part of the Committee's current inquiry into the FSS.
More information, including a photograph of Prince Andrew at the signing of the first contract in January 2006 is available on the GeneWatch UK website (5).
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile)
Notes for editors
(1) Palace denies 'shameful' database link. 11th March 2011. On: http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=15744 .
(2) A list of the FSS contracts with UAE is on: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-01-31b.36495.h&s=DNA#g36495.r0 . A second contract was signed in December 2006 following Blair's speech at the FSS. See: DNA database 'should include all'. The Telegraph. 24th October 2006 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1532210/DNA-database-should-include-all.html
(3) Press release available on: http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=566821&als[itemid]=567879
(4) See, for example: http://www.muslimsdebate.com/faces/shownotes.php?notesid=1282=
(5) Background information, including a photograph of Prince Andrew witnessing the signing of the contract is on: http://www.genewatch.org/sub-566821