Yearly Archives: 2016

Uganda’s Violent Legacy

Photo by:

By Lejla Hodzic

More than ten years ago, a UN official described the conflict in Uganda as “the biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world,” adding that the war in the northern part of the country targeted the civilian population, especially children.

Since its declaration of independence in 1962, Uganda has experienced conflicts among different ethnic, religious and national groups, but the scale of atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) over a period of more than 20 years has been particularly shocking. The LRA insurgency continues – albeit with diminished intensity – today, with children being the principal victims of abductions and forcible conscription.

The LRA came to prominence in the 1980s, one of several rebel movements in Uganda’s economically and politically marginalized north. The group, led by Joseph Kony, began practicing extreme brutality against the Acholi people…

Spain’s Missing

Photo by:

By Bojana Djokanovic

In February 2016, the news portal Spanish News Today reported the exhumation of the remains of Timoteo Mendieta from a mass grave in Guadalajara. The exhumation was ordered by an Argentinian judge. Mendieta was a victim of the Franco regime, killed in the months after the end of the Spanish civil war. His remains, which were found together with those of 19 or 20 other people, were to be removed from the mass grave and, following DNA analysis in Argentina to confirm the identity, were to be buried elsewhere in accordance with the wishes of his daughter.

The Spanish civil war, from 1936 to 1939, ended with the victory of General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces, which had received military support from Germany and Italy. The conflict was characterized by human rights violations and war crimes, perhaps the…

The Long Wait: Lebanon’s Missing Persons

Demonstration in Beirut of families of missing. Photo by:

By Bojana Djokanovic

More than 17,000 people are believed to have disappeared as a result of the conflict in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990.

The conflict included domestic, regional and international actors, which has complicated issues of responsibility and accountability. Peace in the country remains fragile, especially in light of the spillover effect from current regional instability.

Although some legislative and administrative steps have been taken in order to assist families of the missing, a broad-based, government-supported legal and social strategy has not been implemented, which means that only a very small number of missing persons have been located and identified from the earlier conflict. Decades after a formal peace settlement was reached, the issue of the missing remains a serious obstacle to long-term peace, sustainability and progress.

However, civil society has been persistent in keeping the…

ICMP and GRULAC Countries Discuss Issue of Missing and Disappeared Persons


2 March 2016: Colombia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Juan Jose Quintana, today hosted a meeting of diplomats from the Group of Latin American Countries (GRULAC) 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.

Countries in Latin America face complex challenges related to accounting for missing persons. In some cases the numbers run into the tens of thousands. However, effective strategies have been developed and governments and other stakeholders can address the issue successfully by working with one another and with international agencies, Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons, said during the meeting.

She noted that the issue of missing persons is a global challenge. Legislative initiatives that have worked in one country may work in other countries. Also, where…

Ukraine’s Forgotten Missing and Disappeared

Since the spring of 2014 when conflict (“counter-terrorism”, as it is more often described by parties on both sides) began in Eastern Ukraine, thousands are believed to have gone missing as a result of refugee flight, fighting, reprisals and abductions. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, a marked deterioration in the human rights environment on the peninsula has been reported. Despite the “Minsk 2” agreement of February 2015, which provided for a ceasefire but which has never been fully implemented, human rights organizations and media continue to report widespread human rights abuses and casualties in Eastern Ukraine.

As a consequence of the conflict, it is estimated that 86,000 people have been internally displaced, over 6,000 have been injured and more than 3,000 have been killed. The exact number of those…

A Cornerstone of Peacemaking


By Thomas Miller and Kathryne Bomberger

Today, the number of missing and disappeared persons (MDPs) around the world as a result of conflict and political unrest can be measured in millions. This means millions of families may never know the fate of a loved one. It means millions of reasons for fear, for anger, and for alienation.

From Sri Lanka to Mexico to Pakistan, addressing the issue of MDPs is a prerequisite for political and social recovery. Over the last two decades a new consensus has emerged that resolving this issue is a cornerstone of peacemaking.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), established in 1996 at the initiative of former President Bill Clinton to help the authorities in the Western Balkans account for 40,000 persons missing as a result of the Yugoslav conflict, is leading a concerted effort to turn this emerging international consensus…

Enforced Disappearances in China

Lejla Hodzic examines legal and extra-legal strategies adopted by the authorities in China in an apparent bid to stifle dissent.

When the Chinese authorities arrested or detained more than 280 lawyers and activists in July 2015, the move was viewed as an explicit crackdown on human rights. Not only were detainees prevented from practicing law – and therefore prevented from pursuing human rights cases through legal channels – they were held in conditions that are tantamount to enforced disappearance.

Regularizing the conditions of detention for some, in January this year the Chinese authorities raised formal charges against seven lawyers who had been held in secret detention.

Consistent with a systematic effort to maintain legality while restricting the scope for human rights advocacy by members of the legal profession, the authorities recently amended…

Human Rights in Nigeria – Chibok Abductions and Disappearances


Bojana Djokanovic examines the challenge to Nigerian society posed by mass abductions by insurgent groups and military counter-terrorism operations in the northeast of the country.

Nearly two years since the abduction of about 270 girls from Chibok, Borno State, northeast Nigeria, in April 2014 by Boko Haram, the whereabouts of more than 200 of these girls remains unknown. Boko Haram has waged a six-year insurgency to establish an Islamist state in the northeast of Africa’s biggest economy and pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2015. The Chibok kidnapping sparked an international social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, which has included participation by Nigerian citizens and activists and by international celebrities and politicians. The campaign has amplified awareness of Boko Haram kidnappings of young women and made this one of the most known…

The Tragedy of Missing Young People and Children


The Mediterranean “refugee and migrant crisis” has led to an increasing number of children and minors going missing on dangerous routes to safety and a better life. At the end of January, EUROPOL Chief of Staff Brian Donald told The Observer newspaper that more than 10,000 children and unaccompanied minors may have gone missing since the start of the crisis. The authorities believe some of these unaccounted for children may be victims of trafficking, slavery, sexual exploitation and other criminal activities. These include children who have begun their journeys unaccompanied, or whose parents or guardians died along the way, or who were forcibly taken from their parents on the migrant and refugee route.

While as many as 5,000 children may have disappeared in Italy alone, the Council of Europe has…

A Cornerstone of Peacebuilding – Addressing the Issue of Missing and Disappeared Persons


28 January 2016: The cross-cutting global challenge of accounting for missing and disappeared persons can be addressed effectively through a coherent international policy, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told at briefing for senior diplomats at the United Nations in New York today.

The issue of missing persons and enforced disappearances is linked to international peace and security, he said. “Appropriate legislation and adequate frameworks are needed for processes to account for the missing. Mechanisms to clarify the fate of missing persons need to be transparent and depoliticised, and the needs of the missing should be at the center of any action, including families of the missing.”

The briefing on accounting for missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other involuntary causes was organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons and hosted by the…