Accounting for the Missing Requires a Rule-of-Law Approach

The Hague, 29 March 2018
: Speaking at the Camera Justitia Masterclass today, as part of The Hague “Movies that Matter Festival”, International Commission for Missing Persons Director of Policy and Cooperation Andreas Kleiser stressed that addressing the issue of missing persons demands a rule-of law approach rather than a purely humanitarian one.

“Large numbers of missing persons destabilize fragile societies, which means that an effective program to account for the missing is a crucial component of any post-conflict or post-disaster recovery effort,” Kleiser said, adding that despite major challenges, effective programs to recover large numbers of missing can be carried out, sometimes many years after the event.

Kleiser said an effective strategy involves working with governments to establish legislative and institutional structures, working with civil society to ensure that the rights of families of the missing are secured, including rights to effective investigations, justice and reparations, and deploying advanced scientific and data systems techniques in a targeted way.

“Whether people have gone missing as a result of conflict or crime or natural disaster, governments are obliged under national and international law to seek to establish the whereabouts of missing persons and to investigate the circumstances of their disappearance,” Kleiser said. “Families of the missing may enjoy protections under various statutes, including those dealing with the right to effective investigations and due process, the right not to be subjected to torture and degrading treatment, the right to a family life and to recognition as a person before the law.”

Kleiser’s presentation was accompanied by excerpts from the film “Truth Detectives” directed by Anja Reiss. The film explores contemporary efforts to document war crimes, from securing and analyzing forensic evidence, to presenting evidence in court.