Monthly Archives: April 2016

Ambassador Wigemark Visits ICMP in Tuzla


EU Special Representative and Head of the European Union Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark visited the Identification Coordination Facility (ICF) of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Tuzla today, accompanied by the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Programs, Matthew Holliday.

The ICF acts as the nexus for ICMP’s identification programs and is responsible for receiving and archiving biological samples from around the world, which are in turn prepared for DNA testing in ICMP’s laboratory system. It also administers the DNA matching process and produces and archives DNA match reports, which are submitted to government authorities to assist them in the process of identifying missing persons.

Since ICMP’s DNA laboratory system went online in late 2001, ICMP has helped to make around 20,000 DNA-based identifications worldwide.  ICMP maintains a standing capacity to work on up to 10,000 cases a year. …

Asian Ambassadors Discuss Issue of Missing Persons


Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, A.M.J. Sadiq, today hosted a meeting of ambassadors from Asia in The Hague to highlight the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and to discuss the issue of missing and disappeared persons in the region.

ICMP first worked in Asia when its staff were deployed in Thailand to help identify victims of the December 2004 tsunami. Since then it has cooperated with the authorities in the Philippines and Vietnam. In October 2015 it launched a series of consultations in Sri Lanka with a view to contributing to a comprehensive, countrywide effort to account for the large numbers of missing from the 25-year conflict.

“The issue of missing persons is a global phenomenon, and Asian countries are unfortunately also affected by it, through a variety of causes,“ Ambassador Sadiq said, adding that since ICMP now has…

European Union Continues Support for ICMP



EU Special Representative and Head of the European Union Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, together with the Director of Finance and Administration of the International Commission on Missing persons (ICMP), Sanjiv Ray, have signed a contract under which the European Union will continue to fund the work of ICMP in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The contract, worth 1 million Euros over a period of one year, will enable ICMP to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in the complex process of locating and identifying missing persons from the conflicts of the 1990s.

“The European Union understands the essential need to account for the missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Ambassador Wigemark said. “It helps fulfill the families’ right to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives and to access their rights to justice.  Lasting peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved without a credible and…

Argentina’s rule-of-law approach to addressing a legacy of enforced disappearances


By Bojana Djokanovic

As many as 30,000 persons are believed to have disappeared during Argentina’s “Dirty War” (a term coined in the United States but considered insulting in Argentina) between 1976 and 1983. In these seven years, the Argentine military dictatorship carried out a systematic campaign of repression against citizens it labeled as dissidents or rebels. Men and women who opposed the government – or who were simply perceived as opposing the government – were taken to secret government detention centers and never heard from again. Furthermore, it is estimated that as many as 500 children born in prisons and camps were taken from their mothers at birth and illegally given up for adoption.

In the midst of political instability and severe economic difficulties, a military junta led by Jorge Videla seized power in 1976. The military, backed by conservative forces in…

Media and the Missing


Lejla Softic considers the impact of ethnic and cultural bias in media and policy responses to conflict and the issue of missing persons.

On 22 March this year, at least 31 people were killed by bombs that were detonated in the airport and metro in Brussels. There was a global expression of sympathy, outrage and support for the people of the Belgian capital. However, in March alone, six countries across the world experienced brutal terrorist attacks: Belgium, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

An article published by the US newspaper The Nation in January this year showed how terrorist attacks in Western countries receive far more media coverage than attacks in non-Western countries. Not only is coverage less extensive, it is qualitatively different.

The Nation article focused on media reports about three attacks in November 2015: Beirut (November 12), Baghdad (November…

ICMP helps to resolve cold case from Canada


Lejla Hodzic describes how a 35-year old mystery was partly resolved through state-of-the-art DNA matching techniques.

After 35 years of waiting, the Johnston family from British Columbia, Canada, have finally been able to lay their son to rest. This has been made possible because of advancements in technology that have taken place since Robert (Bob) William Johnston went missing in 1981, and since his remains were found 14 years later. Despite extensive investigation and testing, it was not possible until now to make a conclusive identification of the remains.

Robert (Bob) William Johnston was 19 years old when he disappeared from Prince Rupert, his hometown on British Colombia’s North Coast.  In 1995, skeletal remains were found by hikers on the south side of Mount Hays. Believing the remains might belong to their son, Bob’s parents donated DNA for analysis. Technology at the…

A Way Forward in Sri Lanka

Andreas Kleiser analyzes the essential role of resolving the issue of missing and disappeared persons in Sri Lanka as part of the country’s postwar recovery.

ICMP and the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala: FAFG) held two roundtables in Sri Lanka in March, one in the eastern port of Trincomalee (14/15 March) and the other in the capital, Colombo (17/18 March). The objective was to bring together stakeholders and examine steps that have to be taken in order to establish a systematic and effective process to account for those who are missing as a result of more than 25 years of conflict.

The total number of MDPs in Sri Lanka is unknown. The current Sri Lankan Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints Regarding Missing Persons (PCICMP), covering the period…

Positive prospects for addressing the issue of missing persons in Colombia


Bojana Djokanovic examines new and hopeful prospects for accounting for tens of thousands of missing and disappeared persons in Colombia

In September 2015 the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began the latest round of peace talks in their long-running conflict, agreeing in principle that a peace agreement would be signed in March 2016. The talks in Havana reached agreement on issues such as sentence reduction for those who admit to crimes, and the FARC accepted a disarmament plan. However, the peace deal deadline was missed after the opposing sides failed to agree on ensuring a permanent cease-fire.

The conflict in…

How DNA profiling helped unravel the horror of Bosnia’s genocide


(This article appeared in New Scientist)

Bringing Radovan Karadzic to book for his part in war crimes in the former Yugoslavia included groundbreaking use of mass DNA evidence, says Thomas John Parsons.

Radovan Karadzic is beginning a 40-year sentence after being found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. It marks the end of a trial that began in 2010 at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Prominent among the former Bosnian Serb leader’s offences during the Bosnian conflict was his role in the Srebrenica genocide, in which 8,000 Bosniak (muslim) men and boys were executed over four days in July 1995.

Identifying victims was a crucial part of ensuring justice was done. Forensic work connected with this conflict became the largest DNA identification project the world had seen, carried out by the International Commission on Missing Persons…