States Must Endeavour to Account for the Missing

30 August 2018: In an op-ed published on the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons, Kathryne Bomberger, has highlighted the close connection between accounting for the missing and upholding the rule of law.

Ms Bomberger notes that “governments have well recognized human rights obligations to investigate reports about missing persons and to establish the circumstances of their disappearance, and to do this without regard to nationality, ethnicity or other group characteristics.” She stresses that “no lesser investigative standard is justified based on whether a person goes missing in armed conflict, a maritime disaster or as a migrant fleeing pervasive lawlessness and abuse. Individuals may be traveling on forged documents, or with no documents at all; they may have paid a trafficker for passage in an unregistered vessel. These contraventions have no bearing on the obligations of states when people disappear. States must endeavor to account for the missing. They have legal obligations to do this. A just society depends on fundamental guarantees that apply equally to all.”

The full text of Ms Bomberger’s op-ed can be accessed in English at LINK, in Arabic at LINK and in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian at LINK

In Baghdad today, ICMP organized a conference at the National Museum, in cooperation with the Foundation for Art in Life, at which the Deputy Head of ICMP’s Mission in Iraq, Fawaz Abdulabbas, also highlighted the central role that accounting for the missing plays in upholding the rule of law. He pointed out that, in addition to its own domestic legislation, Iraq has obligations under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which it acceded to in 2010. For more information on today’s conference in Baghdad to mark International Day of the Disappeared, please visit LINK. In addition, ICMP has published a motion graphic describing the effort to account for the missing in Iraq, which can be accessed at LINK.

Meanwhile, at an event organized with ICMP support in Tirana today, Matthew Holliday, Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, presented ICMP’s “Site Locator” and “Report a Missing Person” module, two of the database and forensic tools that ICMP makes available to families of the missing and others to assist in the resolution of missing persons cases. Addressing underlying issues in the context of the International Day of the Disappeared, Mr Holliday noted that accounting for the missing “is a key element in overcoming the legacy of a totalitarian past”. For more information on today’s event in Tirana, please visit LINK.

Throughout this week, ICMP has been publishing the testimony of men and women who are working to account for those who have disappeared as a result of natural disasters, conflict, political repression, organized crime, and irregular migration. To read the testimony of people on the frontline of the global missing persons challenge, please visit LINK.

ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with headquarters in The Hague. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.