Securing the Rights of Families of the Missing and Disappeared Is Fundamental to Upholding Human Rights and the Rule of Law

The Hague, 10 December 2023: – The numbers of missing and disappeared persons around the world are on the rise due to global warming, increased conflict and migration. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the of the acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly.  To commemorate this historic event, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has organized a series of events highlighting the rights of missing persons and their families to truth, justice and reparations.

“When people go missing as a result of conflict or political repression or irregular migration, multiple human rights abuses are likely to be involved,” ICMP Chairperson Knut Vollebaek and ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said in a Statement published today. “A legal obligation is triggered on the part of the State to conduct effective investigations that are official, impartial, prompt, and transparent and deploy means capable of establishing the facts. These rights are guaranteed under international conventions to which almost all European countries are party.”

On 8 December in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, ICMP hosted a panel discussion following the screening of The DNA of Dignity, a film about the technique, pioneered by ICMP, which has made it possible to identify tens of thousands of unidentified human remains from conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and around the world. The documentary by Swiss film-maker Jan Baumgartner describes the painstaking process used to identify victims buried in clandestine graves.

On 12 December, ICMP will host a roundtable discussion in Kyiv, Ukraine, on the issue of missing civilians and civilians in captivity. Through its Ukraine Program, ICMP is supporting efforts to account for the more than 30,000 people who have disappeared as a result of the Russian invasion. ICMP has already begun to collect data (including genetic data) from Ukrainian refugees living outside the country.

Also to mark this year’s International Human Rights Day, ICMP has produced a video in which families of the missing from Syria Ukraine, and the Wester Balkans address the issue of rights in the context of missing persons, and a video that uses animation to explain the rights of missing persons and their families.

ICMP is conducting a social media campaign that will continue in the coming days, highlighting the responsibility of states to safeguard the rights of the missing and their families.


About ICMP

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.