n South African Journal on Human Rights - A South African Intelligence DNA Database : panacea or panopticon?

Volume 27, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



In February 2009 the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development introduced a Bill on the proposed National DNA Database (NDSSA). This Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill is the framework within which a DNA intelligence database for South Africa was to be established. On 4 November 2009 the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee decided to split the Bill viz to continue with the enactment of fingerprint amendments, but to refer the DNA sections back to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to be re-worked. This article discusses the problems that can arise from ill-drafted Bills in respect of the establishment of DNA databases; it indicates how these can impact on the human rights of individuals; it comments on the limitations of the capabilities of a DNA intelligence database and suggests how errors in the implementation of the Bill can be adequately controlled. Issues that arise in drafting legislation for a South African DNA database for intelligence purposes are scrutinised in order to determine whether such a DNA database is indeed the panacea that many believe it would be; or whether it is just another aspect of the dangers associated with a panoptical or surveillance society. The article proposes a middle perspective that acknowledges the dangers inherent in establishing a DNA database, but which also acknowledges the eventual benefits.

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