The Hague, 9 December 2021: – The remains of 41 recently-identified victims of August 2014 Da’esh atrocities in Northern Iraq were buried today at a ceremony in the village of Kocho in Sinjar.
Over the past several years, the Iraqi authorities have located and recovered a number of mass graves related to crimes committed by Da’esh against the Yezidi population in Kocho village, near Sinjar. During this period, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has provided technical and logistical support in the excavation of different sites, and collaborated with the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD). In addition, ICMP has provided support to the Iraqi teams to collect genetic reference samples from families of the missing, in order to help Iraq, identify missing persons from these crimes through a DNA-led process of identifications, making it possible to identify the remains buried today.
“States have the primary responsibility to investigate missing persons from conflict and human rights abuses and I would like to take this opportunity to commend the work of Iraq in this regard,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “It is important that those who committed these crimes are held to account and that families of the missing are able to secure their rights to justice, truth and reparations.”
To enable families of the missing to attend the ceremony today, ICMP together with the Farida Global Organization helped family members currently residing in Germany to travel to Kocho to attend the event in person. This will also enable these families to deal with the administrative processes related to their rights in relation to the deceased, including but not limited to compensation.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the families of those laid to rest today, to the village of Kocho and to all those in Iraq who are still missing relatives,” Miss Bomberger said. “Families play an important role in the missing persons process. They need to be part of this process, and the outcome has a direct impact on their rights. ICMP commends the work of the Iraqi authorities for their efforts to secure the rights of survivors, many of whom are women.”
“On the 9th we will unite with our loved ones after seven years of being apart from one another,” the President of the Farida Global Organization, Farida Khalaf, said today. “Our relatives will enter Sinjar, but this time not on their feet, instead, enclosed in coffins and carried on the shoulders of the survivors. I wonder how many more returns of Yazidi remains will it take for the world to break its silence. On behalf of the Farida Global Organization I would like to thank ICMP for supporting the relatives of the 41 identified remains to return to Iraq and bid their deceased loved ones one last farewell.”
Iraqi authorities estimate that between 250,000 and one million persons are missing in the country as a result of decades of conflict and human rights abuse, including atrocities committed during the Ba’ath Party regime, wars and atrocities committed by Da’esh. Iraqis who have left the country also are missing, including victims who have died while crossing the Mediterranean.
ICMP has supported the Iraqi government’s efforts to fulfil its responsibilities to victims and their families since 2008, including by training scientists in advanced DNA identification procedures, supporting excavations of mass graves and the collection of personal data and blood samples in Kocho and in Yazidi IDP camps, and assisting civil society and families of the missing. ICMP is working with the authorities to assist in efforts to establish a central body responsible for accounting for all missing persons and a Central Record of Missing Persons, elements that are key to successful missing persons programs.
ICMP’s work in Iraq is financed by Germany, the Netherlands and the United States Department of State.
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.