Monthly Archives: October 2015

Roadmap on Long-Term Missing Persons Program in Albania

Albanian delegation 2 (800x619)

A delegation from the Albanian Government completed a three-day study trip to ICMP’s offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina today. In April, ICMP staff held talks with officials in Tirana following a government invitation to visit the country. ICMP and the relevant institutions in Albania are now developing a roadmap to address the issue of around 6,000 people believed to have gone missing as a result of political persecution between 1944 and 1991.

The Albanian delegation, comprising Ermira Shtino of the Directorate for Policy for the formerly-Persecuted, Laura Saro of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, Orkid Spahiu of the Institute for the Integration of Politically Persecuted Persons, and Refik Golli of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited ICMP’s laboratories in Sarajevo and Tuzla as well as the Podrinje Identification Project in Tuzla; they were briefed on all aspects of ICMP programs…

Daily World News Digest, 8 October 2015

Human rights abuses and impunity continue in the Philippines

InterAksyon, a news portal from the Philippines, carried a story saying that “a manifestation of the deeply-seated culture of impunity” is present in the country, after the Department of National Defense (DND) said only a single soldier has been convicted in 97 human rights abuse cases filed since 2001. In a letter to Terry Ridon, a representative of the youth party list (Kabataan party list), Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin reported that out of 57 soldiers accused of extrajudicial killings only one has been convicted. In 27 cases of enforced disappearances, 17 are under investigation, only one case is on trial, one soldier was formally charged, four cases have been archived, and four soldiers found innocent. Ridon said that this only shows that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is virtually protected from the claws of Philippine law. This is…

Daily World News Digest, 7 October 2015

Migrant crisis: EU to begin seizing smugglers’ boats

The BBC reported today that the EU is beginning a new operation in the southern Mediterranean to intercept boats smuggling migrants. Under Operation Sophia, naval vessels will be able to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling. Until now, the EU has focused on surveillance and rescue operations. So far this year, more than 130,000 migrants and refugees have crossed to Europe from the North African coast. More than 2,700 have drowned. EU’s warships will have to stick to international waters – meaning that they will have to stay 12 nautical miles away from the Libyan coast, from which up to 20 migrant ships set sail a day. The EU eventually hopes to move to a more aggressive phase of its operation – by operating within Libya’s own territorial waters. But this will only be possible…

Accounting for the missing in Sri Lanka


Six years after the end of what is generally regarded as the longest armed conflict in Asia, relatives still search for answers about the whereabouts of their missing family members. The precise number of persons who are missing as a result of the Sri Lankan conflict remains a matter of dispute. Media reports highlight the discrepancies between numbers given by government and non-government agencies and numbers based on cases reported by families searching for their relatives.  The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 5,671 reported cases of wartime-related disappearance in Sri…

World News Digest September


ICMP’s Daily World News Digest brings together news stories dealing with enforced disappearances and missing persons cases from around the world. It offers a snapshot of daily events and over a longer period it highlights key trends.

The prospect of a credible process to address war crimes and investigate missing persons cases in Sri Lanka opened up in September as the government of President Maithripala Sirisena appeared to indicated willingness to launch a comprehensive judicial initiative with international assistance.

The Sunday Leader (, a weekly from…

ICMP Director Wins Prestigious International Science Award


In September, the Director of ICMP’s Forensic Science Department, Dr Thomas Parsons, was awarded the 2015 Scientific Prize by the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG). Dr Parsons is only the tenth person since 1987 to receive the award for outstanding scientific work in the field of forensic genetics, which is presented at two-year intervals but only when it is deemed that there is a recipient who merits the accolade.

Dr Parsons was honored for his signal contribution to genetic science, including his formulation of “the most efficient protocols and interpretation guidelines” for analyzing mitochondrial DNA and maximizing yields when extracting DNA from old and/or degraded bone samples – two of the key elements in human remains identification. The Prize cites Dr. Parsons’ “work in human mitochondrial DNA analysis and the identification of victims of war and disaster.”

Presenting the award at the ISFG’s…

A Contribution to Addressing the Migration and Refugee Crisis


By the end of September half a million people had crossed the Mediterranean in 2015, well over double the figure for the whole of 2014.

Almost 3,000 people have drowned making the crossing.

And these numbers do not tell the whole story. There are credible reports of large numbers of African migrants dying in the Sahara before they even reach the Mediterranean coast.

The picture of three-year old Alan Kurdi from Syria, whose lifeless body was washed up on the shore of Bodrum in Turkey on 2 September galvanized global opinion. The overcrowded boat on which Alan and his family were trying to reach…

DNA Past and Present

DNA past and future_historical

Kevin Sullivan considers how DNA identifications of high profile figures from the distant past may shed light on the potential for mass identification today

In 2012, archaeologists exhumed a human skeleton from a mediaeval grave that had been covered over by a municipal carpark in the English city of Leicester. DNA extracted from the skeleton was compared with DNA from a blood sample provided by a living descendant of King Richard III’s elder sister, Anne of York. This resulted in a perfect match, indicating that the skeleton belonged to Richard, the last Plantagenet King of England.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which (as every schoolchild once learned) was the dramatic event that “ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the Modern Era”. History has not been kind to the vanquished monarch. He was blamed…

Mexico’s Missing – One Year On


Bojana Djokanovic examines structural elements in Mexico’s missing persons pandemic

On 26 September 2015, exactly one year after 43 teacher trainees were abducted in the city of Iguala, in Mexico’s Guerrero state, families of the missing students staged demonstrations in Mexico City and elsewhere. The abduction and presumed murder of the students galvanized public opinion throughout Mexico and attracted worldwide media attention. Only two of the disappeared students are reported to have been identified (and only one of these identifications was definitive), while the location and…

Daily World News Digest, 6 October 2015

ICMP headquarters in The Hague

NL Times, a Dutch daily, reported on 5 October that Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders signed an agreement on Monday to establish the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) headquarters in The Hague. “The current migration crisis reminds us again of the importance of the work of ICMP,” Foreign Minister Koenders said at the signing. “Among the millions of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict or persecution, thousands go missing and among them are many vulnerable groups, including children.” Bringing the organization to the Netherlands started with the work of previous Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans, now the First Vice President of the European Commission. “The support of the Dutch Government has been instrumental in the development of ICMP and underscores the need for all governments to address a problem that affects every country in the world,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger, who…