The Hague, 13 July 2021 – The Policy Coordination Group (PCG), a Syrian-led initiative on the missing and disappeared facilitated by ICMP, this week adopted an Ethical Charter.
This Charter contains ethical standards and codes of conduct to be followed during data collection and documentation of missing persons. The Charter prioritizes the rights of victims and embodies a rights-based approach to accounting for missing persons. It stipulates that data must be processed according to clearly stated legal provisions, while maintaining confidentiality, transparency, neutrality and non-discrimination. The principles outlined in the Ethical Charter apply to all forms of data and evidence, from oral testimonies to the handling of human remains exhumed from mass and clandestine graves.
The Ethical Charter establishes a set of principles to guide data collection and documentation and support best practice. Some of these principles are already enshrined in international instruments, while others reflect lessons learned from more than decade of data collection and documentation in the Syrian context.
At its meeting this week, the PCG called on all Syrian and international organizations, and others involved in data collection and documentation to uphold the principles enshrined in the Ethical Charter in order to ensure the highest standards in the treatment of survivors, families of the missing and witnesses. These principles should also guide the work of other actors providing services and assistance to victims and witnesses, such as those providing referral services. The PCG urged families of missing persons and survivors as well as witnesses to refrain from participating in any documentation process that does not adhere to these principles.
To ensure that the principles are followed when collecting data and documenting cases of missing persons in Syria and among Syrians, the PCG urges relevant organizations and agencies to publish the Ethical Charter on their websites as confirmation of their commitment to these principles.
At its session this week, the PCG finalized a report titled “Syria: Towards Addressing the Issue of Missing Persons”. The report will be submitted to the Universal Periodic Review of the Syrian Arab Republic in the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
“The ethical charter and the principles applied in it are excellent, I’ve read it many times, it’s very comprehensive and I believe it is a step forward in addressing this issue.” one group member said in the meeting, held under Chatham House Rules.
More than 100,000 persons are believed to be missing as a result of the current conflict in Syria. In addition, the country has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes prior to the conflict, and Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
ICMP’s assistance to the Syria Policy Coordination Group is funded by the European Union through the support the EU provides to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program.
ICMP is a treaty-based international 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 the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.