An Effective Strategy For Addressing the Global Challenge of Missing Persons

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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 to locating and identifying the missing.”

Sir Geoffrey Adams said that ICMP, which established its new headquarters in The Hague at the end of 2015, could play a key role in addressing an issue that is affecting countries throughout the world: “ICMP can help governments and others to tackle the extremely serious global problem of enforced disappearances and missing persons”.

Ms Munira Subasic, President of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves, described how she and other survivors had helped one another to lobby the authorities to fulfil their obligations to families of the missing.

Ms Olgica Bozanic of the Regional Coordination of Families of the Missing, which brings together more than 40 family associations from across the Western Balkans, noted that with the help of family associations ICMP has been able to lead an effort that has accounted for more than 70 percent of those who were missing at the end of the fighting in the former Yugoslavia.  She said ICMP had helped family associations to lobby for legislation to account for the missing and support their families, and she called on governments in the region to cooperate in compiling a unified Regional List of the missing, which will facilitate further identifications.

Mr Agustín Vásquez Gómez of the embassy of El Salvador said El Salvador had become the sixth signatory to the ICMP Treaty in November 2015, reflecting the fact that ICMP had helped stakeholders in El Salvador. He said that accounting for the missing “is fundamental to establishing peace” and that effective solutions bring together “governmental, social, judicial and forensic activities that, when combined correctly, can help resolve cases.”

Mr Kweku Vanderpuye, Senior Trial Lawyer at the International Criminal Court (ICC), stressed that “addressing the issue of the missing is crucial to the investigation of mass atrocity crimes to bring to account the perpetrators of these offences.”

ICMP presenters at the seminar explained key components of an effective effort to account for the missing: addressing the needs of states and civil society, using modern forensic methods for location and identification, and developing and deploying customized data systems with data protection.

Today’s seminar was attended by ambassadors and other senior diplomats, and by representatives of international organizations and national and local authorities.

ICMP works with governments, civil society organizations, justice institutions, international organizations and others throughout the world to address the issue of people who have gone missing as a result of armed conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime and other causes. As the only international organization that is exclusively dedicated to this issue, ICMP is actively engaged in developing institutions and civil society capacity, promoting legislation, fostering social and political advocacy, and developing and providing technical expertise to locate and identify the missing.