Iraq: Civil Society Organizations Accelerate Efforts to Account for the Missing

A key element in ICMP’s holistic approach to helping authorities around the world address the issue of missing persons is to ensure that families of the missing participate fully in the development and implementation of sustainable missing persons strategies. Survivors of missing persons do not seek information and justice and reparations as a favor or an indulgence from the authorities: they seek these things as a fundamental right, under law. This is a crucial point and one that should be brought to the fore on international Human Rights Day (10 December). In order to pursue successful missing persons strategies, families of the missing must assert their rights and government authorities must recognize and uphold those rights.

Ten of ICMP’s civil society partners in Iraq have issued a joint statement on the occasion of Human Rights Day. The NGOs, which are participating in ICMP’s small grants program, come from every part of Iraq and are actively working on missing persons issues. They are:

  • Ajial Charitable Society for Intelligence and Creation Development (Diyala)
  • Orchard Foundation for Human Appeal (OFHA) (Sulaymaniyah)
  • Halabja Chemical Attack Victims Association (Halabja)
  • Noor Al Mustaqbal (Nasiriyah)
  • The Centre for Genocide Studies of the International University of Erbil (Erbil)
  • Yazda (Dohuk)
  • Good Governance Organization for Development of the Salahadin University (Erbil)
  • Um Al Yateem Development Foundation (UDF) (Baghdad)
  • Sawa Organization for Human Rights (Samawa)
  • Impact-Iraq (Erbil)

At a workshop organized by ICMP in Erbil on 25 October, participating organizations from Federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region explored ways of strengthening civil society advocacy on the issue of missing persons issue in Iraq. Today’s statement reflects some of the key concerns that have been raised by the organizations, particularly those that affect women.

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NGO Statement

Today, 10 December 2017, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, our organizations stand in solidarity with families of missing persons throughout Iraq, and pledge to work together towards truth, justice and reparations.

As many as one million people are missing throughout Iraq, due to decades of conflict affecting families in every part of the country.

The missing persons issue spans geographic, cultural, social and religious borders: today millions of family members from all backgrounds, suffer emotional, psychological, social and economic hardship rooted in the disappearance of a loved one. Families have to live with the agony of not knowing the fate of a loved one, sometimes for weeks or months, sometimes for years or decades.

Since a majority of those who go missing are men, women and children have to live with the consequences, and their rights are routinely ignored.

Female heads of household have to look after families in often very difficult situations. Their own legal status may be unclear and they will likely encounter severe financial challenges. Further, in recent years, women have been targeted for abduction; children, other vulnerable groups and minorities are also under threat.

The missing persons issue is a human rights issue.

Governments have an obligation under law to do everything in their power to account for missing persons and to uphold the established rights of families to truth, justice and reparation. Families have the right to join together to seek information from the authorities about their cases and to seek redress for the loss of their relatives.

Failure to address large numbers of missing persons exacerbates the trauma, vulnerability and rights violations experienced by society as a whole, and hinders reconciliation and stability. Conversely, a forthright commitment to addressing the issue of missing persons contributes to peace and to building an inclusive society in which’ rights are upheld and trust is restored between communities and institutions.

All missing persons must be accounted for in an impartial manner, regardless of their religion, their political affiliation or their role in the conflict, or those of their families.

We pledge to work together to enhance the participation of families in securing their human rights. We call on authorities throughout Iraq to accelerate their efforts to account for missing persons, engaging families and civil society in the process.

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About ICMP in Iraq: ICMP has played an important part in addressing this issue in Iraq since 2003.  In 2005 ICMP assisted in the creation and development of the Law on the Protection of Mass Graves, and in 2012 ICMP signed an agreement with the authorities, through which it is able to engage directly with relevant departments in order to expand institutional capacity to address the issue of missing persons regardless of sectarian or national affiliations.

PROFILES OF THE MISSING is part of a global discussion forum convened by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), bringing together policymakers, legal experts, academics, civil society activists and others to share experiences and best practice in developing institutional, societal and technical solutions to address the global challenge of missing and disappeared persons.