The Hague, 15 May 2023: Families of the missing are the key stakeholders in an effective missing persons process and must play a central role in the process if it is to succeed, participants agreed at a two-day series of discussions and briefings facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) this week. ICMP experts and representatives of Iraqi institutions – the Martyrs’ Foundation (Mass Grave Directorate) and the Ministry of Health (Medico-Legal Directorate) – took part in the discussions.
During the two-day event, ICMP presented the Iraqi Guide for Families of the Missing, which lays out the rights of families and the key elements of a sustainable and effective process, and participants visited ICMP’s Human Identification laboratory at its Headquarters in The Hague.
This week’s series follows a commemorative event on the Rights of Yazidi Families of the Missing, held on 10-11 December 2021. The event included a photography exhibition titled “The Women Who Beat ISIS”, organized by the Farida Global Organization with the support of ICMP.
Speaking on Sunday at the event, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger highlighted the central role of families of the missing in a successful DNA-led identification process – to provide blood samples for DNA profiling and to raise public awareness and encourage the authorities to meet their obligations in regard to accounting for the missing. “We want to help Iraq develop and implement an effective DNA-led process,” Bomberger said. “Families of the missing must be involved in that process, to provide data and to maintain public support.”
The Da’esh’s invasion of the Iraqi province of Sinjar in 2014 resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000 men and the abduction of 7,000 people, mainly women and children. A significant number of those who were abducted are still missing in Iraq and Syria.
Since 2016 ICMP has provided operational support to Iraqi experts in addressing Da’esh crimes, by safeguarding and excavating gravesites in Sinjar and mass graves in Tikrit in cooperation with other international organizations, including UNITAD. This has included providing training, guidance, and onsite operational support. ICMP has supported the excavation of at least 19 mass graves in the Sinjar area as well as the collection of surface-lying remains in five additional mass grave sites.
The Iraqi Government estimates that from 250,000 to one million people are missing as a result of conflict and human rights violations.
Following a successful meeting with senior Iraqi Officials in September 2021, ICMP has launched a five-year program of work to support Iraq in developing a sustainable mechanism to account for all missing persons and deliver justice to their families.
This week’s event was funded by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office through the support it provides to ICMP’s Iraq program.
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.