From 27 February – 3 March, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in cooperation with INTERPOL’s Bioterrorism Prevention Unit and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory , organized a training course on biological crime scene management for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigations of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM) in New York.
The objective of the course was to provide qualified experts nominated by Member States to the UNSGM roster with a better understanding of sampling techniques and evidence management in the context of a possible UNSGM investigation. Training elements included sample collection, packaging, and transportation in such a way that they are retrieved safely, with legitimacy and authenticity, with consideration for chain of custody.
A group of 28 experts on the UNSGM roster from 24 countries was invited to participate in the course. Representatives from UNODA provided an introduction to the course and shared relevant information on the UNSGM context for such incidents. Then, representatives from INTERPOL provided instructions to the participants on crime scene operations in an environment that is potentially biologically contaminated. This included a procedure for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment, considerations to access a contaminated scene, initial scene assessment, briefing and sampling strategy, as well as evidence packaging. Representatives from the Public Health Agency of Canada complemented these sections with training components on biological sampling, including field testing, laboratory analysis, and evidence transportation.
The course also included several practical components for participants and concluded with a one-day field exercise, in which participants put into practice the knowledge acquired during the first three days of the training course. Participants were asked to conduct sampling and evidence management operations in two scenarios with scenes potentially contaminated with biological material.
This advanced skill training course provided the experts with more in-depth understanding of bringing together different elements of a potential UNSGM investigation, including working in a potentially contaminated environment, as well as collecting and managing evidence.
In addition to the support provided by INTERPOL and the Public Health Agency of Canada, financial support for the workshop was generously provided by the European Union, as well as the Governments of Canada and Spain.
For more information on the UNSGM workshop, please contact the UNODA team in support of the UNSGM at UNSGM@un.org.