30 August 2016: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) today announced the launch of its restructured Online Inquiry Center (OIC). The OIC is an interactive missing persons search tool that makes it possible to provide or obtain information about a missing person. It can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
“The OIC is a unique and invaluable tool that gives stakeholders – including families of the missing and those who are responsible for locating and identifying missing persons – access to ICMP’s database, which currently contains information on around 40,000 missing persons,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “We have expanded the number of language versions and we have made the software easier to use. We believe this is a substantial and strategic contribution to the effort to account for missing persons around the world.”
The OIC can now be accessed in English, Arabic, Spanish, Albanian, and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. In due course, more languages will be added.
Basic biographical information about a person who has gone missing – name, date and place of birth, physical description, names of family members, and circumstances (where these are known) when the person was last seen – can be submitted. This information – depending on the degree of access which the person reporting the information is prepared to allow – may be accessed by individuals or agencies searching for missing persons.
“We believe that this online resource will be invaluable in missing persons scenarios related, for example, to Libya and Syria,” Ms. Bomberger said. “In these countries the current violence makes it impossible to sustain a systematic and effective effort to account for missing persons, but in both cases there is an urgent need to assist refugees and others who have left these countries and are searching for missing family members. The OIC makes it possible to mount such a program, and ICMP is currently in talks with governments and partner organizations with a view to launching programs for Syria and Libya in the coming months.”
The OIC can also play an important role among European countries that are now struggling to address the migration crisis. ICMP is already working with the authorities in Italy, where currently there are thousands of unidentified bodies, many of which are the remains of drowned migrants. The OIC makes it possible for family members in Africa, for example, to provide information about an individual who may have set out for Europe but who has not been heard from and is now feared missing. At the same time, relevant government agencies can provide the OIC with information about individuals who have arrived in a particular country. In this way the OIC can help families to account for missing relatives.
In addition to providing access to biographical information stored in ICMP’s database, the OIC enables users to track the status of cases related to a country or region where ICMP is operating or participating in a DNA-led identification program.
The restructured OIC is being launched on the International Day of the Disappeared as part of ICMP’s continuing effort to address the global challenge of the missing.
ICMP was founded on 29 June 1996 to spearhead the effort to account for the 40,000 people who were missing as a result of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Twenty years later, more than 70 percent of those people have been accounted for (including 7,000 of the 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica genocide). This is an unprecedented achievement that demonstrates that missing persons can be found using new technologies and in cooperation with governments, families of the missing and relevant international organizations.
In 2001 ICMP created a standing capacity to use DNA as the first line in conducting large-scale identifications of missing persons. This revolutionized the process and provided scientific evidence of identity that could be used for criminal trial purposes. ICMP also transformed how data is collected, safeguarded and shared in a manner that meets the privacy requirements of families of the missing and the obligation of states to find the missing. In 2003 ICMP began to operate globally, and today it is active throughout the world, exercising a mandate to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, migration, human rights abuses, disasters, crime and other causes, working with governments to establish legal frameworks, technical capacity and social consensus that makes it possible to launch and sustain effective strategies to account for the missing.
On 15 December 2014 an Agreement was signed in Brussels by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg and Sweden, establishing ICMP as a treaty-based intergovernmental organization. The Agreement has since been signed by Chile, Cyprus, El Salvador and Serbia. It remains open for accession by other states. In the autumn of 2015 ICMP relocated its headquarters to the Netherlands and in July 2016 it formally opened new offices in The Hague.
To access ICMP’s redesigned OIC, please click here.