ICMP Marks International Day of the Disappeared

The Hague, 30 August 2023: – Throughout the world, authorities are bound by laws and agreements, such as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to fulfill obligations towards families of the missing, including families of missing refugees and migrants. Marking the International Day of the Disappeared, International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Director-General Kathryne Bomberger emphasized the responsibility of states: “Governments must secure the rights of victims and their families, regardless of their nationality, religion, or gender, or the circumstances of their disappearance.” They can fulfil this commitment “through coordinated action, including pooling resources, and through a strategy based on upholding the rule of law.” Failure by governments to account for missing persons is “a fundamental and corrosive violation of domestic and international law,” Ms Bomberger added.

ICMP Chairperson Knut Vollebaek noted today that “in the last 25 years the capacity to locate and identify missing persons – including missing migrants – has been transformed,” and “technical innovations have enhanced the capacities of governments to fulfil their responsibilities. In the short and medium term, coordinated action can be taken to tackle people smugglers and locate and identify their victims. This is a path away from violence and human rights abuse and towards upholding the rule of law – something that politicians right across the political spectrum should be willing to support.”

Coinciding with the Day of the Disappeared, ICMP has published A Country of Missing Persons, a study of the circumstances in which people have disappeared because of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The book offers detailed recommendations on what must be done in order to locate and identify tens of thousands of missing persons and gather evidence that can be presented in future war crimes trials.

ICMP’s programs have also organized and participated in a diverse range of events to mark the Day of the Disappeared.

In Iraq, ICMP organized a roundtable in Erbil to discuss key elements of a sustainable missing persons process, focusing on collaborative government-civil society approaches. During the discussion, families representing Yazidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Kurd, and Arab communities shared testimonies and honored the memory of their missing loved ones. The Iraq Program also partnered with Nineveh Plains Youth Association to host a dialogue session addressing disappearance issues in Omerkan village, in Nineveh Plains. The session helped to gather families of the missing from the Shabak community to raise awareness and demand their rights to truth, justice and reparations.

In the Western Balkans, ICMP participated in a joint event in Brcko organized by the Missing Persons Institute Advisory Board, and another event on Mount Ozren organized by the ROPIN project, which is supported by ICMP through its EU funded 2023 Grants Cycle. Speaking at the Brcko event, Samira Krehic, Deputy Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, emphasized that while more than 70 percent of the missing have been accounted for, the effort to account for those who are still missing remains absolutely essential. “The human rights of families of the missing must be upheld,” Krehic said. “Therefore it is essential that the BIH Missing Persons Institute, the BIH Prosecutor’s Office and all the other domestic institutions in the countries in the region are adequately supported, financially and politically, and that regional cooperation through the Missing Persons Group is maintained.”

In the MENA region, ICMP produced a video in which the relative of a missing person speaks about the rights of families.


About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP 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.