Yearly Archives: 2016

Scientists from Vietnam Complete Training at ICMP

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By Lejla Softic

Two groups of three research scientists from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) successfully completed a three-week training program at ICMP’s facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in April.

The Hanoi Government estimates that more than 1.1 million North Vietnamese Army personnel and Viet Cong (pro-communist South Vietnamese irregulars) were killed or went missing in the 30 years of fighting before 1975. Around 300,000 are still missing. In addition, between 50,000 and 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians and between 195,000 and 430,000 South Vietnamese civilians died as a result of the conflict.

Although the United States has repatriated and identified most of its war dead, Vietnam has so far identified just a few hundred people, using outdated forensic techniques. Yet thousands of families are desperate to locate the remains of missing relatives.

The six Vietnamese scientists who have been trained at ICMP…

Accountability for the missing and disappeared in Guatemala


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Bojana Djokanovic examines Guatemala’s 20-year effort to account for the missing from almost four decades of conflict

Guatemala is the most populous country in Latin America, with the highest birth rate and the highest population growth rate. Poverty is endemic and health and development challenges are severe. The indigenous population, mostly of Mayan descent, constitute 60 percent of the overall population, and continue to lag behind the non-indigenous population in social statistics: they are 2.8 times poorer and have 13 years’ less life expectancy; meanwhile, only 5 percent of university students are indigenous. Twenty-one different Maya groups live in Guatemala making up an estimated 51 % of the national population. A period of social and economic reform in the 1940s and 50s was followed by 36 years of internal conflict that began in 1960, pitting a right-wing regime against a…

Nigeria struggles to address legacy of Zaria killings

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Lejla Hodzic examines the December 2015 events in Zaria, Nigeria, and considers their implications for the issue of missing persons in Nigeria and beyond 

Since 1992, Nigeria has experienced a cycle of inter-communal violence that the authorities have been unable to break. Kaduna State in central Nigeria has been one of the worst affected by targeted killings and human rights abuses based on religious and ethnic discrimination. Endemic bribery and corruption have undermined the capacity of the judicial system to prevent this violence, and divisive local politics have compounded this situation, creating a pervasive culture of impunity.

The military campaign against Boko Haram has led to an increase in violent episodes in Kaduna State, including widespread and serious human rights violations. The killing of more than 300 supporters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), a Shi’ite Muslim minority group, in December 2015,…

A Sustainable Effort to Account for the Missing in Iraq

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Trefor Williams, the Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, describes the steps that have been taken to coordinate administrative and technical resources in Northern Iraq and engage families of the missing, as efforts get underway to identify thousands of victims in the Sinjar area, recaptured from Islamic State at the end of 2015.

The capture of territory in northern Iraq, including the town of Sinjar and the surrounding area, by Islamic State in August 2014 was followed by mass executions: several thousand people, mostly belonging to the Yezidi community, were killed. When Islamic State was driven out of Sinjar in November 2015 the incoming troops immediately reported the discovery of multiple mass graves.

ICMP has worked in Iraq since 2003 and established offices in the country in 2008. It has helped the authorities to set in place a legal framework, including the creation of…

An Effective Strategy For Addressing the Global Challenge of Missing Persons


The global challenge of missing and disappeared persons can be tackled effectively if governments and other stakeholders adopt a systematic and coordinated approach, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, told participants at a seminar organized in The Hague today by British Ambassador to The Netherlands Sir Geoffrey Adams.

“Around the world, as a result of migration and as a result of conflict and political instability we are seeing an alarming rise in the number of people who go missing,” Ms Bomberger said. “ICMP is the only international organization exclusively dedicated to addressing this issue and it has developed a strategy that includes securing the support of relevant authorities and institutions, helping to organize civil society engagement and the engagement of families of the missing, supporting the creation and implementation of appropriate legislation, and applying state-of-the-art scientific techniques…

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…