Erbil, 15 August 2019: Today is the fifth anniversary of the occupation of Kocho village in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, when Yezidis were massacred, and large numbers of women and children were abducted and enslaved. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is helping partners in Iraq to to locate, recover and identify victims of the Da’esh massacre, ensuring that evidence is documented in a manner that it is admissible in an international court.
ICMP is working with the Government of Iraq, through Mr Mohammed Tahir Al-Tamimi, Head of the Operations Room for Coordination of Iraqi Authorities’ Efforts in Liberated Areas, assisting the Iraqi National Team – the Mass Graves Directorate of the Martyrs’ Foundation, the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, and the Medico-Legal Directorate in Baghdad. ICMP also maintains an agreement with the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh (UNITAD), to support its work.
“Five years ago, the Yezidi community was exposed to a vicious onslaught fueled by hatred. The legacy of this can only be addressed in a meaningful way through the pursuit of truth and the pursuit of justice,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today. “ICMP is providing assistance to the Iraqi Government in order to help ensure that families can secure their rights to justice, truth and reparations.”
“Regarding Da’esh crimes, ICMP has worked with the Iraqi authorities since 2016 to protect mass graves in Sinjar, and has assisted them in the process of excavations in Kocho village,” the acting Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, Adnan Rizvic said, noting that 16 graves have now been excavated in Kocho since the beginning of 2019. He said this represents an important step forward, adding that it is now critical that Iraqi authorities and families of the missing ensure that proper identifications of victims are made based on scientific evidence and proper chain-of-custody procedures, using DNA as the first step in identifications. To do this, DNA reference samples (blood or saliva) should be collected from families of the missing with their informed, written consent. Genetic profiles obtained from these samples would then be compared to DNA extracted from unidentified human remains. Ensuring that accurate identifications are made, in a manner that respects the privacy of families of the missing, is critical to securing the rights of families. ICMP used the same procedures to identify persons from the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, where more than 90 percent of the 8,000 persons killed have been identified to date.
Iraq has hundreds of thousands of missing persons cases, including those missing from the Saddam Hussein regime. ICMP has worked with the authorities in Iraq since 2003 and it contributed to the development of the Law on Protection of Mass Graves (2006), amended in 2015 to the Law on Mass Grave Affairs to include persons missing as a result of Da’esh-related atrocities. The objective of ICMP’s program is to assist the Iraqi government in finding all missing persons, regardless of their sectarian or national background, or the period of time of their disappearance, and to help them secure the rights of survivors. This is an investment in peace and stability.
ICMP’s program in Iraq is supported by the US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), and the European Union Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI).
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with headquarters in The Hague. 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.