Libyan Experts Launch initiative to Address Missing Persons Issue

At a meeting in The Hague this week, senior officials and legal experts from Libya launched an initiative to strengthen the Libyan justice system’s capacity to address the issue of missing persons.

Participants at a seminar organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons on Monday and Tuesday and entitled “Criminal Procedure and the Use of Evidence in Court-led Processes on Mass Graves and Missing Persons in Libya,” focused on how to expand the use of forensic evidence in court-led processes, and on clarifying inter-institutional responsibilities and legal obligations to family members of the missing.

While considerable progress has been made in building the technical capacity of the Libyan authorities, there are crucial gaps in the institutional and legal framework that need to be addressed in order to locate and identify the missing.

Recent political instability and violence has made it difficult to address much-needed legal reforms in a conclusive way, in particular in the areas of data processing, data sharing and data protection, and in terms of ending impunity through criminal investigations. However, by preparing the ground now it will be possible, when conditions improve, to sustain a long-term effort to account for as many as 10,000 persons who went missing during the conflict of 2011 and during the previous 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.

The participants at this week’s seminar were drawn from a cross section of judges, prosecutors, and forensic experts from domestic and international courts.

Presentations were given by representatives of ICMP, the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Netherlands Forensic Institute.

Participants explored the need to change court procedure in Libya so as to facilitate the presentation of forensic evidence; establish a documentation and data management system; enable the Libyan authorities to pursue suspects more effectively in cooperation with international law enforcement agencies and within the rule of law; develop sustainable inter-agency planning capability; and improve regional and international cooperation in the field of justice.

Since the end of 2011, ICMP has been actively engaged in helping the Libyan government to account for missing persons. Despite a deteriorating security situation, ICMP will continue its support for Libya.