Yearly Archives: 2016

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…

ICMP Assists in Locating Missing in Iraq

25 March 2016: On 21 and 22 March, ICMP personnel together with partners from the relevant authorities, placed fences and warning signs around the main mass gravesites in Sinjar. This is the first time that any form of protection has been provided at these sites.  The signs indicate that the gravesites should not be entered “in order to protect evidence and the crime scene to safeguard victims’ rights in international courts”.

ICMP has trained more than 550 Iraqi professionals from the various institutions engaged in the process of accounting for the missing, from across sectarian and national lines. It is now training technicians to begin the process of assistance in locating and accounting for missing persons from Sinjar.

An Affirmation of the Rule of Law

25 March 2016: ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today that the verdict handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the case of Radovan Karadzic, following legal proceedings that have lasted for more than seven years, is an important affirmation of the rule of law.

Karadzic was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

He was convicted of genocide in the area of Srebrenica in 1995, of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer), terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and hostage-taking. He was acquitted of the charge of genocide in other municipalities in BiH in 1992.

“Those who killed unarmed civilians, and those who consciously created the circumstances that facilitated these crimes, believed they could erase the identity of their victims permanently. They were wrong,”…

Accounting for the Missing Is Key

Sarajevo 21 March 2016 – Resolving the issue of missing persons is a key element in sustaining reconciliation and stability throughout the region, Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, said today during a briefing in Pristina for HRH Prince Charles, who was visiting Kosovo as part of a regional tour.

At the briefing, organized at the Presidency/Assembly Building by the Government Commission on Missing Persons in Kosovo, Prince Charles met members of family associations of the missing, as well as officials and representatives of international organizations.

ICMP has worked to address the issue of missing persons in Kosovo since 1999. Since 2003 it has helped the authorities through DNA-based identifications, working initially with the UN Interim Administration (UNMIC) and since September 2008 with the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX). Using DNA, ICMP has helped to identify more than 2,500 of the…

Roundtable on Issue of Missing Persons in Sri Lanka

15 March 2016: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala: FAFG) held a roundtable in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, on Monday to analyze requirements for a systematic and effective process to account for those who are missing as a result of more than 25 years of conflict.

Monday’s event will be followed by a roundtable in Colombo on Thursday. This is part of an initiative organized by a consortium of agencies operating as part of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC). The Roundtables are co-hosted by the Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CPPHR) in Trincomalee and the Centre for Human Rights Development (CHRD) in Colombo.

In November, ICMP and FAFG conducted a series of consultations in Sri Lanka…

The Other Migration Crisis

Rohingya migrants stand and sit on a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015.. Photo by: AFP/Christophe Archambault

A UNHCR report on Mixed Maritime Movements in Southeast Asia, released on 23 February, details the unfolding tragedy of Rohingya migrants making the perilous journey south from Bangladesh and western Myanmar in search of security and work.

More than one million Rohingya live in Myanmar, mostly in Rakhine State. In the northern part of the state they form the majority. Following rioting in 2012, as many as 160,000 predominantly Muslim Rohingya (most of whom were denied citizenship under a 1982 law and therefore do not have identity papers) were forced from their homes by predominantly Buddhist ethnic Rakhines. Large numbers fled to Bangladesh; more than 100,000 sought shelter in camps for…

Latin America and the Missing

At the beginning of March Colombia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Juan Jose Quintana, hosted a meeting of diplomats from the Group of Latin American Countries in The Hague. Participants discussed the issue of missing and disappeared persons in the region.

Countries in Latin America face complex challenges related to accounting for missing persons. Several countries are grappling with issues related to transitional justice as families seek to learn the fate of loved ones who were victims of enforced disappearance under former regimes. In other countries, the rise of narco-trafficking syndicates has fomented an epidemic of disappearances with casualty figures in some cases surpassing those associated with full-scale military conflict. And at the same time, the flow of migrants from Central and South America to North America has fueled a lucrative and shockingly brutal trade in which large numbers of migrants perish at the…