Accounting for Missing Persons Is Key to Stability and Recovery in Iraq

Baghdad, 4 March 2018: Despite the enormous challenges to a sustained and effective missing persons process in Iraq, the authorities, working with families of the missing, have the capacity to make substantial progress in accounting for those who have disappeared as a result of decades of conflict and human rights abuse, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today.

Ms Bomberger was speaking during a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad.

The Director-General, together with the Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, Lena Larsson, briefed the minister on ways in which ICMP can help the Iraqi authorities coordinate the effort to account for the missing and cooperate constructively with families of the missing.

“The task is enormous,” Ms Bomberger said. “The numbers of missing persons are enormous. But it is very important to stress two things. The first is that this problem can be tackled effectively. The second is that it must be tackled, because unless it is addressed there will be hundreds of thousands of families in Iraq who have no reason to place their confidence in the institutions of government.”

To date, ICMP has trained more than 500 Iraqi officials in aspects of mass graves investigations including excavation and exhumations, mortuary management, examinations and DNA-based identifictions. It is providing cutting-edge technical assistance and data systems technologies and has assisted Iraq in making DNA-based identifications. ICMP administers small grants programs to increase the participation of families in the process of accounting for missing persons and it is working with relevant ministries and departments to build missing persons data collection and processing capabilities.

In addition to working with the authorities to develop and implement a credible national strategy, ICMP is actively engaged in supporting the efforts of civil society organizations and family groups, Ms Bomberger said. “Our experience has been that a viable strategy can only be sustained if families are at the center of the effort. They are the principal stakeholders in an effective missing persons strategy.”

At a series of roundtables organized by ICMP in Baghdad and Erbil in 2015, a clear consensus emerged among stakeholders from every part of the country that the effort to account for the missing should be coordinated in such a way that all stakeholders, including relevant ministries and families of the missing, have access to all relevant information. ICMP is proposing to establish a Central Record of Missing Persons, using its Identification Data Management System (iDMS) and Online Inquiry Center (OIC), which will make it possible for families to report a missing person easily and securely. ICMP will also help Iraqi institutions involved in processing personal data to implement appropriate safeguards and policies governing data protection processes, in line with international standards and obligations including those from the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which Iraq signed in 2010.

ICMP’s program in Iraq has been generously funded by the European Union, the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.