Yearly Archives: 2016

Accounting for the Disappeared in El Salvador

El Salvador

The 1992 agreement that ended 12 years of civil war in El Salvador created conditions for  this country of just over six million people to move decisively away from conflict. A generation later, the casualty rate from gang violence exceeds 1980s levels.

Whereas the war pitted a land-owning class and its military allies against agricultural workers and urban intellectuals, today’s violence is sustained by competition among narco-gangs. In August 2015, after the end of a controversial truce between government and gangs under the presidency of Mauricio Funes (2009-14), the Supreme Court classified two of the most powerful gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, as terrorist organizations.

During the “truce”, the official homicide rate did go down, but critics argue that this was because gangs simply murdered more discreetly, burying victims in clandestine graves. The disposal of cadavers in secret locations is now well established…

ICMP participates at panel debate on tackling UN Sustainable Development Goal 16

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Washington DC, 14 October 2016: ICMP participated on 14 October in a panel debate in Washington DC on tackling UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 (on Peace and Justice) in the digital age, focusing on innovations for Peace and Justice.

Speaking at a panel discussion on “Playing catch up with Silicon Valley – what needs to change in the coming five years”, ICMP’s Director of Science & Technology, Dr. Thomas Parsons, explored the challenges and the promise of integrating new technologies such as affordable real-time satellite imagery, access to social media and other forms of big data, and revolutionary DNA methods, to deliver concrete advances in missing persons registration and identification and mass grave discovery. Dr. Parsons also examined ways in which these can be applied to improve justice mechanisms, societal security, human rights and the rule of law.

The debate was hosted by the…

Disaster Victim Identification

By Jacopo Guidi

Climate change has contributed to a destabilization of the global ecosystem, reflected in an increasing incidence of disasters such as typhoons and flooding. Terror attacks around the world have also increased the need for missing persons investigations, including measures to identify human remains in emergency circumstances. The initial emergency response to a disaster is key to saving lives and accounting for the missing. The extent of the damage and the area involved (think, for example, of a hurricane) or a lack of reliable information can make these crucial initial interventions chaotic and difficult to organize.

Over the course of 20 years, ICMP has developed an unrivaled range of expertise in responding to large missing persons scenarios. Since 2000 it has conducted the world’s largest missing persons DNA testing program, having…

Women participate as peace negotiators in Colombia

Bojana Djokanovic analyzes the key role of gender perspectives in Colombia’s peace process.

The Colombian conflict started in the 1960s as a rural uprising for land rights that spawned the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Peace talks to end the longest -running conflict in the western hemisphere began in Havana in 2012 and have led to the warring sides reaching an understanding on peacebuilding measures that includes transitional justice, accounting for the disappeared and a plan for demobilizing the rebels’ estimated 7,000 fighters.

On 26 September 2016 the Colombian government, represented by President Juan Manuel Santos, and the FARC, represented by Commander-in-Chief Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, signed a historic agreement to bring an end to 52 years of conflict. However, on 2 October in a referendum in which the…

Albania: the long walk to identify the missing


Matthew Holliday examines the evolution of a comprehensive missing persons strategy in Albania

Sulejman Mara died in 1954 in unknown circumstances at the infamous Burreli prison in Albania. He was 44. His body was never found. In post-World War II Albania, like so many others, Sulejman Mara was labeled an enemy of the proletariat – a persona non grata in a totalitarian state that zealously disposed of its enemies.

Today, Sulejman Mara is regarded as one of the politically persecuted. For Gentjana Sula, former Assistant Minister for Social Welfare and Youth, Sulejman Mara is the grandfather she never knew, a victim who deserves justice, a person whose fate – like that of thousands of others – must be elucidated, for the sake of his own family and for the sake of so many other families.

Romana Vlahutin, the EU Special Representative to Albania, understands only too well…

ICMP and EU Office in Kosovo Launch Guide for Families of the Missing

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15 December 2016: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the EU Office in Kosovo today launched “The Kosovo Guide for Families of the Missing: Institutions, Process and the Rights of the Families”.

The Guide contains information on the institutions and their roles in addressing the missing persons issue, information on legislation and reparations, including the rights of families, the definition of a missing person – and how this definition is arrived at, how to report a missing person, the process of location and recovery of mortal remains, and the use of DNA for the purpose of human identification; as well as information on the role of civil society and memorialization, and instructions on the use of ICMP’s Online Inquiry Center (OIC).

The Guide is one of the main outputs of the project “Resolving the missing Persons Cases – Breaking the…

ICMP and IOM Co-Host Inter-Agency Meeting On Missing Migrants


14 December 2016: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have convened an Inter-Agency Roundtable on processing and managing data relevant to finding missing refugees and migrants. The day-long event held at ICMP’s headquarters in The Hague on 9 December, brought together a number of agencies and government representatives.

The meeting addressed current provisions for processing and managing data on missing refugees and migrants, and provisions for improved data collection, sharing, analysis and mechanisms to help resolve the fate of the missing.  During the meeting, it was stressed that addressing the issue of refugees and migrants who go missing requires the cooperation of international and national organizations as well as states. While some organizations collect data on migrant fatalities, there is less focus on information that can be used to help families find their missing loved…

Dutch Government Reinforces Support for ICMP’s Global Efforts to Address the Missing

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13 December 2016: The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has made a financial contribution of EUR 1 million to support the International Commission on Missing Persons’ (ICMP) global operations and its transition to new headquarters in The Hague.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has supported ICMP for twenty years in its successful effort to help the authorities in the Western Balkans locate tens of thousands of persons missing as a result of the conflict in the 1990s.

Under the agreement signed between ICMP and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 December, ICMP will use the new unearmarked funding to develop its global capacity.

The problem of missing and disappeared persons has intensified over the last two decades for a variety of reasons including climate change, migration, organized crime, and political instability in some parts of the world. ICMP is the…

ICMP at the 15th Session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties


At the ICC-ASP Plenary Session on 18 November, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger discussed the rule-of-law approach to missing persons and its significance in ICMP’s cooperation with the ICC and with national authorities, including investigating missing persons cases linked to war crimes.

The ICMP is active throughout the world. To date, it has assisted more than 40 countries with missing persons issues following armed conflicts, natural disasters, genocide and violations of human rights. ICMP cooperates with a large number of national and international institutions, including the ICC.

Germany Supports ICMP Colombia Project


7 November 2016: Germany is supporting an ICMP project to help the authorities in Colombia design and implement measures to account for missing persons. Under an agreement signed on Thursday by Germany’s Ambassador to The Netherlands, Dirk Brengelmann, and ICMP Director-General, Kathryne Bomberger, the German Government will provide funding for the initial assessment stages of ICMP’s Colombia program.

In this phase of the program, ICMP will examine the prospects for implementing measures to account for missing persons in Colombia following the 2 October referendum, in which voters narrowly rejected the current terms of a Peace Agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de ColombiaEjército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) to end five decades of conflict. A new round of negotiations is now underway.

ICMP will also assess challenges in the process of setting up institutional measures to account for missing…