Iraq Must Continue to Find All Missing Persons, Including from the Regime of Saddam Hussein

Baghdad, 20 March 2022 – On the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) reaffirms its commitment to helping Iraq to account for the huge number of persons missing as a result of more than four decades of political instability and violence.

According to Iraqi government sources, the number of persons missing in Iraq as a consequence of conflict, human rights violations and other atrocities ranges from about 250,000 to more than one million, and includes missing persons from the Regime of Saddam Hussein, including the al-Anfal military campaign against the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq between 1986 and 1989 and the Uprisings of 1991 of Shia and Kurdish populations. In addition, there are large numbers of persons still missing from the Iran-Iraq war, and the first Gulf War, as well as those missing since 2003, including from crimes committed by Da’esh. The issue has significant consequences for society and security in Iraq until today. Tens of thousands of families, from all of Iraq’s different ethnic, religious and national communities continue to suffer the anguish of uncertainty regarding the fate of their relatives and most have not yet secured rights to justice, truth and reparations.

“After twenty years, the families of the missing continue to search for answers and to secure their rights.” Alexander Hug, the Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, said today. “Iraq has made progress over the years, including the creation of a Law on Mass Grave Affairs and signing the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. ICMP is committed to supporting the authorities in their ongoing efforts to locate missing persons and to secure the rights of families.”

ICMP has supported Iraq since 2005 to help establish a sustainable process for finding all missing persons, regardless of their religious, ethnic, and national background, or circumstances surrounding their disappearance, including the time period, or any other factor. ICMP provides assistance to enhance the technical expertise of Iraqi authorities. This has included training more than 500 specialists responsible for locating, recovering, and analyzing human remains, as well as Iraqi personnel working on DNA analysis and the collection of genetic samples from the families of the missing. ICMP has provided on-site technical support in hundreds of field deployments to protect and excavate mass and clandestine graves and in  DNA reference sample collection campaigns.

Over the last 15 years, since ICMP established a presence in Iraq, it has worked closely with civil society in Iraq to improve the capacity of families to participate proactively and effectively in the missing persons process and to foster greater mutual understanding and cooperation between families and the authorities.

Earlier this year, together with Iraqi partners, ICMP launched a five-year program  to help Iraq complete the development of a sustainable process to account for all missing persons and to secure the rights of families, based on conclusions reach by senior Iraqi officials in September 2021.

About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure 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. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.

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