The Hague, 6 April 2023: Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has resulted in tens of thousands of missing and disappeared persons and the numbers continue to rise by the day. Circumstances in which people go missing include forcible deportations, summary executions, incommunicado detention, kidnapping, and family separation, including unlawful adoptions and trafficking in human beings.
The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is partnering with Ukrainian civil society and families of the missing to ensure that all missing persons are accounted for and that the rights of families of the missing to truth, justice, and reparations are secured.
During a week-long visit to ICMP Headquarters by Ukrainian civil society organizations and families of the missing, supported by the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (EU FPI), participants reviewed the process of locating missing persons and reuniting families and were able to see at firsthand how a DNA-led identification process works. They also reviewed data protection and privacy laws and relevant international and domestic legislation that is critical to securing the rights of families of the missing.
“Ukrainian civil society and families of the missing are strong and motivated, and we look forward to strengthening our partnership through a number of cooperative projects, including outreach campaigns to collect data from up to 90,000 families of the missing residing both outside and inside of Ukraine and ensuring that they are fully engaged in the development of purpose-specific institutions and legislation,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today. “ICMP will support Ukraine in locating missing persons and investigating their disappearance to judicial standards to hold perpetrators of atrocities to account and ensuring that the rights of families are secured.” she added.
Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Ukraine, Frederik Coene, reiterated today that addressing the issue of missing and disappeared persons is integral to Ukraine’s future. “Accounting for those who have gone missing is about upholding the fundamental rights of victims and their families. It is about upholding the rule of law. The EU is supporting ICMP’s work in Ukraine as part of a broader effort to support human and political rights.” he emphasized.
Anna Demydenko from the Ukrainian Women’s Veteran Movement explained the importance of the visit to ICMP. “I am impressed by the work of ICMP’s DNA laboratory. Many people in Ukraine do not know that they can submit their DNA for analysis in order to identify relatives who have disappeared, who have lost their memory or who are in captivity.” She added, “We must inform families of the missing about the possible opportunities for finding their relatives.”
At the invitation of the Government of Ukraine, ICMP is helping the authorities to develop a sustainable missing persons process based on the rule of law. This includes providing access to high-volume, DNA-led identification capabilities, ensuring that evidence collected during the process, including evidence from mass and clandestine graves, is admissible in criminal trials, supporting laboratory operations, data collection, and mass grave investigations, providing Ukrainian institutions (including the police) and the Ukrainian public with access to secure and large-scale missing persons data processing, and ensuring participation of civil society and families in the missing persons process.
ICMP’s Guidebook for Families of the Missing, provides information about the rights of families under international and national law and what to do if a loved one has gone missing.
This visit is supported by the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (EU FPI), as part of an 18-month project that began on 1 April 2022.
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. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.
For additional information, please contact Viktoriia Zabiian via Viktoriia.Zabiian@icmp.int.