ICMP and GRULAC Countries Discuss Issue of Missing and Disappeared Persons

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2 March 2016: Colombia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Juan Jose Quintana, today hosted a meeting of diplomats from the Group of Latin American Countries (GRULAC) in The Hague to highlight the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and to discuss the issue of missing and disappeared persons in the region.

Countries in Latin America face complex challenges related to accounting for missing persons. In some cases the numbers run into the tens of thousands. However, effective strategies have been developed and governments and other stakeholders can address the issue successfully by working with one another and with international agencies, Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons, said during the meeting.

She noted that the issue of missing persons is a global challenge. Legislative initiatives that have worked in one country may work in other countries. Also, where the issue is multilateral – for example, when it comes to the large numbers of people who go missing on migration routes – a multinational approach is essential.

“ICMP has been working in countries in the region for almost a decade,” Ms Bomberger said. “We believe that we can make a continuing contribution to efforts to consolidate peace and stability by preventing the issue of missing persons from becoming a threat to political settlements and social stability. This can be done if governments fulfil their obligations and work with stakeholders to implement a rule-of-law approach.”

In 2015, El Salvador and Chile signed the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons. The Agreement does not entail any financial obligations on the part of signatories but allows countries to participate more fully in a global dialogue on the issue of the missing. It also facilitates ICMP engagement in signatory countries. Ms Bomberger invited countries represented at the briefing to consider signing the ICMP Agreement.

ICMP maintained successful programs in Colombia from 2008 to 2010. Following recent progress towards a peace agreement, options are being explored to renew its assistance.

ICMP has also maintained long-term programs with Chile and El Salvador, and it worked with the authorities in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and with the authorities in Havana following a plane crash in central Cuba in 2010. In addition, ICMP is working with civil society activists and judicial authorities in northern Mexico on an initiative to develop a central database and reporting mechanism for missing persons.

Today’s briefing was attended by representatives of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela. El Salvador and Chile are Founding Members of ICMP.

ICMP endeavors to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons who go missing as a result of conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other circumstances. It 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 missing.

For more information on the activities of ICMP in Latin America, please visit http://www.icmp.int/where-we-work/the-americas/latin-america-and-the-caribbean/