The Hague, 1 September 2021 – Iraqi government institutions today concluded a three-day strategic meeting in The Hague titled, “Missing Persons in Iraq: The Way Forward”. The meeting hosted by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), a treaty-based intergovernmental organization, included senior representatives from Iraqi and Kurdish ministries, foundations and parliament whose work is relevant to finding the missing. The first day of the conference coincided with the International Day of the Disappeared.
“This meeting concluded with broad consensus on a five-year strategy that would result in enhancing Iraqi efforts to find all missing persons, regardless of their sectarian or national background and the timeframe or circumstances of their disappearance,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today.
Hassan Al-Kaabi, who is the First Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and who led the delegation, expressed his quest to secure adequate funding from the state budget for a comprehensive five-year strategy. “ICMP can advise on the plan, the equipment, the techniques that are needed,” he said. “What we need to do now is build our human capacity.”
The meeting concluded with broad agreement among the Iraqi participants on a number of key points, including striving to create a central mechanism to coordinate the missing persons process, developing a central record of all missing persons, ensuring accountability for perpetrators of crimes linked to missing persons and securing the rights of families of the missing. Additionally, the authorities highlighted the critical importance of data protection and ensuring the active participation of civil society organizations and families of the missing in a national strategy or plan.
At the end of the event, participants also agreed on the need for a high-level meeting in Iraq within the next six months to continue discussions and agree upon a way forward. The participants also agreed to elevate discussions on accession to the ICMP Treaty at the next meeting.
“We have seen very humane efforts from ICMP to assist on the issue of missing persons in Iraq,” said Ambassador Kahtan Taha, Deputy Minister for Legal and Multilateral Affairs, at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “This event resulted in recommendations and a clear vision to overcome the obstacles facing the work of the institutions concerned with the missing in Iraq. We in the Iraqi government consider ICMP true partners in addressing the issue of the missing in Iraq.”
Iraq’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Dr. Hisham al Alawi, said it was promising “to see that there was broad consensus on the need for Iraq to consider the invitation by ICMP to accede to the Agreement on the Status and Functions of ICMP. This is an important step to support to work of ICMP in Iraq and will boost bilateral cooperation and enable us to share positive experiences with other countries.” He highlighted the fact that “there is high-level commitment to work together after this meeting to ensure that we have an executive order law approved by the Iraqi government to implement all the important recommendations.”
Mr. Abdulkarim Al-Fisal, Chairman of the Board of Advisers at the Prime Minister Office, expressed his thanks to ICMP for organizing the meeting, stressing that the discussions had been “very good, such as the intention to unify efforts to address the issue of the missing.”
Mr. Abdulelah Al-Naili, Head of the Martyrs’ Foundation, said a range of issues had been covered during the meeting, including support on excavating mass graves and the search for the missing, and he noted that “there is complete satisfaction with the work of ICMP and its great logistical and advisory support to the mass graves team and the forensic medicine team in Baghdad.” Among other things, he said support for the Mass Graves Directorate, and the need for a budget to locate mass graves in Iraq had been discussed.
“This event is important for us as the people of Kurdistan, as we were particularly vulnerable to war crimes and genocide by the Ba’ath regime and Dae’sh,” said Mr. Nasherwan Saeed, Director General of Diwan, Ministry of Martyrs’ and Anfal Affairs.
ICMP Iraq Program Head, Alexander Hug said the event had highlighted the importance of coordination among the Iraqi authorities, who have already made progress in establishing a system to account for the country’s missing. “The relevant institutions, including the Martyrs’ Foundation and the Ministry of Health’s Medical Legal Directorate have done heroic work, but with a comprehensive strategy that brings all stakeholders together, more identifications can be made and they can be made more quickly,” he said.
ICMP’s work in Iraq is currently supported by Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Ambassadors from these governments, as well as others, including Australia, Canada, the EU, France, Switzerland were present at the concluding session and applauded the outcome of the meeting.
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 tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.