Established by royal decree in 1975, the Identification Commission is a mobilisation unit administered by NCIS. The Commission includes professionals based in the cities of Bergen, Oslo, Tromsø and Trondheim. Members are experts from the NCIS forensic laboratory, forensic pathologists, forensic dentists, detectives and office personnel.

Its mission is to establish identities in the event of air crashes, snow avalanches, landslides, floods, accidents at sea or other disasters involving multiple fatalities, and in the event of discovery of an unidentified dead body or unidentified human remains. In the process, it collects evidence that may help determine the cause of the incident and who is accountable.

The Identification Commission has assisted in major accidents in Norway since 1975, including the identification efforts following the terrorist attacks of 22 July 2011. In terms of major identification efforts abroad, we may mention the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. It is a member of the Interpol Disaster Victim Identification Steering Group, and makes at least two identifications a week on average.

The principal duty of the National Identification Commission is to establish identities in the event of accidents or other incidents involving multiple fatalities, or in the event of discovery of an unknown body or unknown human remains.

The identification process

When someone is reported missing or presumed dead, all available information about the individual (ante mortem data) is collected for comparison with the deceased. Notably:

Dental records and x-raysMedical recordsDNA samples from relationsFingerprintsCharacteristics such as tattoos, scars or other distinguishing featuresCircumstantial information, e.g. place of residence, clothing, frequently worn jewellery, etc.

A post-mortem examination will be performed during which all medical and physical details on the body are recorded. The data thus obtained post-mortem is compared with the available information about the missing person.

Identification criteria

Primary criteria:

  • Dental information
  • Fingerprints
  • DNA

Secondary criteria:

  • Medical findings
  • Forensic evidence
  • Circumstantial information

The Identification Commission generally determines the identity when at least one primary criterion has been met, supported by secondary criteria. A mismatch precludes identification.

What happens after the identity has been determined?

When the identity has been determined, the body is released to the next of kin for funeral. In some cases, the police may suspend release of the body for investigative reasons, but release will take place as soon as it is prudent.

Composition of the Identification Commission

Administrative staffPolice forensic expertsForensic pathologistsForensic dentistsForensic geneticist (DNA)

Administered by NCIS, the Commission's members are based throughout Norway, including in the cities of Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø.