On Iraq’s Mass Grave Day, ICMP calls for the protection and investigation of mass graves

Baghdad, 16 May 2021 – To commemorate Mass Graves Day in Iraq, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in collaboration with Bournemouth University presented a recently published protocol on mass grave investigation and protection to Iraqi authorities involved in efforts to account for missing persons.

In 2007, the Iraqi Council of Ministers designated 16 May as the National Day of Mass Graves to draw attention to the fate of individuals who were killed and disappeared during decades of conflict and human rights abuse and buried in mass graves. Iraqi authorities estimate that between 250.000 and 1 million persons have gone missing in the country.

To commemorate Mass Graves Day, ICMP presented to Iraqi stakeholders Arabic- and Kurdish-language copies of The Bournemouth Protocol on Mass Grave Protection and Investigation, a joint product of ICMP and Bournemouth University that defines legal and practical standards of the protection and investigation of mass graves. Recipients include the Mass Graves Directorate, the Ministry of Health’s Medico-Legal Directorate and the National Coordination Committee in Federal Iraq as well as the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs in the Kurdistan Region.

“Properly protecting and investigating mass graves are key steps in Iraq’s work to find the high number of missing persons and secure the rights of their families,” said Alexander Hug, head of ICMP’s Iraq Program. “The Bournemouth Protocol is an important tool that benefits the various Iraqi institutions involved in the missing persons process.”

Iraq is a party to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and other human rights instruments. Iraq’s Law on Mass Graves Affairs stipulates that mass graves should be investigated by an inter-governmental committee that includes a judge.

ICMP supports Iraq in its efforts to comply with its legal obligations and has signed cooperation agreements with several main government entities responsible implementing this law, including with the Martyrs Foundation/The Mass Graves Directorate, the Ministry of Health’s Medico-Legal Directorate and the Ministry of Justice. Its assistance to Iraq includes support in protecting and excavating mass graves – so far, it has supported work on more than 60 locations including in Badoush, Sinjar and Tikrit.  ICMP also supported the 2020 excavation of and 2021 burial of the remains of 104 Yezidi victims.

ICMP also assists authorities’ efforts to create a sustainable process to account for all missing persons in the country, regardless of their ethnic, religious, or national background, the circumstances of their disappearance or their citizenship. As part of this, ICMP supports the formulation of policy initiatives to address the needs of the families of the missing and efforts to expand Iraq’s institutional and legal capacity related to missing persons.

ICMP’s support to the Iraqi government also includes training more than 500 Iraqi professionals aspects of the missing persons process, and  training scientists in advanced DNA identification  procedures  and the collection of genetic reference samples. It also supports civil society organizations and families of the missing in efforts to secure their rights to justice, truth and reparations.

ICMP works with the authorities to advance an impartial approach to the issue of the missing and to foster collaboration among religious and national groups. It also assists in efforts to establish a central record of missing persons and to facilitate dialogue between the government and families of the missing and civil society organizations.

ICMP’s work in Iraq is financed by Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.


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ICMP is a treaty-based international organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the