Dutch Government Reinforces Support for ICMP’s Global Efforts to Address the Missing

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13 December 2016: The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has made a financial contribution of EUR 1 million to support the International Commission on Missing Persons’ (ICMP) global operations and its transition to new headquarters in The Hague.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has supported ICMP for twenty years in its successful effort to help the authorities in the Western Balkans locate tens of thousands of persons missing as a result of the conflict in the 1990s.

Under the agreement signed between ICMP and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 December, ICMP will use the new unearmarked funding to develop its global capacity.

The problem of missing and disappeared persons has intensified over the last two decades for a variety of reasons including climate change, migration, organized crime, and political instability in some parts of the world. ICMP is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on this issue.

“In Europe today there has been a significant rise in the number of missing persons, and thousands are going missing on the dangerous journey from conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said following the signing of the agreement. “Thousands are also going missing on migration routes from South and Central America to the United States, and on routes in South Asia. At the same time, countries such as Colombia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Iraq and Libya, to name just a few, are contending with missing persons cases that number from tens of thousands to more than a million. The issue of missing persons is a global challenge and it must be addressed as such by the international community. The support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands significantly enhances ICMP’s capacity to operate on the global stage.”

Speaking on 7 July at the formal opening of ICMP’s headquarters in The Hague, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders highlighted the global nature of the missing persons issue. “We have brought ICMP to the heart of The Hague, the international city of peace and justice,” he said. “We think ICMP’s mission makes it a perfect fit in a city that hosts a multitude of international organizations that promote peace, justice and the rule of law worldwide.”

ICMP attained a new international legal status when a Treaty signed by The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg at the end of 2014 was ratified in the course of 2015 by the parliaments of the States Parties. The Treaty has since been signed by Chile, Cyprus, El Salvador, and Serbia and is open for accession by all states. During 2015, ICMP began moving its headquarters from Sarajevo to The Hague, as mandated under the Treaty. ICMP is now developing its capacity to meet the demands of its new role. Among other things, it intends to establish new laboratory facilities in the Netherlands that will incorporate the next generation of DNA technology related to human identification.

ICMP helps governments build rule-of-law institutions that successfully and impartially search for and identify missing persons, and it supports efforts to develop legislation to enable families of the missing to assert their rights. It has assisted authorities in using advanced forensic techniques, including its pioneering use of modern DNA methods to locate and identify missing persons, and it maintains the world’s only non-profit, high throughput standing capacity to conduct large-scale, DNA-led human identification. ICMP also responds to requests for documentation and expert testimony from international and domestic courts on matters related to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other crimes under international law.