The Hague, 4 November 2022: Following a significant donation from Germany, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will further strengthen its partnership with Ukraine, to direct highly advanced operational capacities at Ukraine’s institutions that are responsible for accounting for thousands of missing persons. The award of roughly 2.5 million Euros annually over three years, and the secondment of personnel from the German Federal Police (BKA) to ICMP, will have a major impact on efforts to locate and identify all victims from the on-going war.
On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, escalating an armed conflict that began in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and pro-Russian separatists took control of eastern parts of Ukraine. In early April 2022, mass graves were discovered in Bucha, Irpin, and Makarivka, and in in September 2022 in Izyum and Lyman. As territory is de-occupied, more mass graves are expected to be found.
“Ukraine has well developed capacities and expertise to conduct effective investigations of serious crimes, including the crime of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions and war crimes,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today. “However, confronted with extreme violence, an existential threat and tens of thousands of dead and missing persons on its territory, Ukraine’s domestic capacities need support at the international level, which ICMP together with others is committed to providing.” Ms. Bomberger said ICMP is “extremely grateful to the government of Germany for its support in helping Ukraine address this complex issue.”
Germany’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Cyril Nunn, said, “Germany’s support to ICMP seeks to help Ukraine locate missing persons and investigate their disappearance to judicial standards that will make it possible to hold perpetrators of atrocities to account.” He added that, “This support will also help Ukraine to reunite families separated by conflict, and secure inheritance rights, custody of children and other challenges faced by families of the missing.”
The circumstances in which persons are missing include forcible deportations, summary executions, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, kidnapping and abduction, and family separation. The missing includes Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, combatants and civilians.
Under international law, states bear responsibility for investigating disappearances and holding those responsible for these criminal acts to account. The prosecution of perpetrators must therefore be viewed as part of a broader effort to secure justice, safeguard the rights of families of the missing, and uphold the rule of law.
ICMP has been working with the authorities in Ukraine since 2014 to help develop a process that can account for people who have gone missing because of the war. Following the Russian invasion on 24 February, the Ukrainian authorities asked ICMP to step up its support. Since then, ICMP has held consultations with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Health, Justice, Reintegration of the Occupied Territories, and Defense, as well as the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Security Service, the Ombudsperson, the Commissioner for Missing Persons, the State Scientific Research Forensic Center and the National Police.
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, irregular 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.