One year after the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg signed the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), three more countries – Cyprus, Chile and Serbia – signed the Treaty in December 2015. El Salvador had become a signatory in November.
The Agreement recognizes ICMP as an international organization tasked with assisting countries in their efforts to address missing persons cases from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other causes.
By becoming signatories, countries declare their commitment to dealing with the issue of missing persons, and this may be particularly significant in regard to countries that are striving to account for large numbers of victims of enforced disappearance. Signing the Agreement does not create new financial or other obligations for States.
ICMP has been assisting each of the new signatory Sates for a number of years.
In Serbia, ICMP has helped the authorities to account for missing persons since 1996. In 2001 ICMP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the former Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and after this assisted in the excavation and identification of persons missing from the Kosovo conflict. ICMP opened an office and established a DNA laboratory in Belgrade in 2002. The laboratory was handed over to the Serbian authorities in 2006. In 2014, ICMP renewed its agreement with the Government of Serbia Commission on Missing Persons through an exchange of letters on the provision of assistance in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons related to the conflict in Kosovo, following the discovery of a grave site in Southern Serbia. To date, over 880 persons missing from conflict have been found by Serbian authorities (these figures relate only to missing persons from the Kosovo conflict).
ICMP has worked with the authorities in Chile for many years. ICMP participated in the work of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Human Rights established in May 2006 to improve the pace and efficiency of efforts to resolve missing persons cases from the 1973-90 period. In June 2008, ICMP signed an agreement with Chile to provide technical assistance in identifying victims of enforced disappearance. ICMP has assisted with DNA testing of 2,671 reference samples and 255 post-mortem samples from missing persons, and has provided extensive assistance with DNA matching and consultation.
ICMP has worked with the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus since July 2012, when it began providing assistance in making DNA-based identifications.
In May 2012 ICMP hosted a workshop in Sarajevo, for representatives from El Salvador’s judicial sector and civil society. ICMP is also taking part in a project with the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the Salvadorian organization Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos. The project assists DNA-based investigations, kinship analysis and database informatics on missing children. In addition, ICMP has participated in consultations organized by El Salvador’s State Prosecutor and Supreme Court, on a ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a case related to crimes perpetrated during the civil war.
The ICMP Treaty is open to accession by all States. For more information about the Agreement, please visit http://bit.ly/1HGyyR8.