The development of forensic DNA analysis: New debates on the issue of fundamental human rights

Mrs Tersia Oosthuizen, Dr Loene Howes

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

DNA profiling has become the gold standard of forensic science, in the identification of a suspect. Forensic DNA analysis techniques continue to evolve and recent developments such as familial searching and DNA phenotyping have raised ethical questions and concerns for human rights. These concerns reflect those expressed in the late 1980s when forensic DNA analysis was first introduced. At that time, a three-way debate unfolded, with legal, scientific, and libertarian models focusing on crime control, scientific processes, and rights of the accused respectively. Ultimately, debates about the scientific process and the admissibility of such evidence in criminal trials overshadowed the issue of potential infringements of fundamental human rights. This resulted in a lack of critical debate around the erosion of civil liberties. This presentation re-visits early debates in the context of new advancements in DNA analysis techniques. It analyses the potential for current and future human rights infringements and highlights that the libertarian model offers a necessary counterbalance to the other arguments, due to its concern for maintaining fundamental human rights.


Tersia Oosthuizen is a current PhD candidate in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Tasmania. She is researching the use of forensic DNA phenotyping and familial DNA matching in Australia and its implications for law enforcement and social injustice.  Before joining UTAS, Tersia was a lecturer in law at the University of Zululand, South Africa, where she specialised in Criminal and Procedure law. She is an admitted attorney in the High Court of South Africa where she managed a criminal law practice before relocating to Tasmania in 2014.


Dec 09 2021