The Hague, 25 March 2021 – The importance of collecting and preserving evidence related to missing persons was a key topic in a second training course for first responders who locate persons missing from the ongoing conflict in Syria, held this week by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
The 22 first responders based in northeast Syria enhanced their capacity to collect forensic evidence and safeguard mass graves and sites of forensic interest during the online four-day course, which ended today. The course covered procedures for DNA sampling of remains, collecting and preserving evidence from mass graves and other measures to support future accountability mechanisms. The course also covered methods to collect, manage and secure data related to the site contents.
Estimates cited by the United Nations in 2021 indicate that over 100,000 persons are missing as a result of the current conflict in Syria. In addition, the country has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes that occurred prior to the conflict, and Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
Lena Alhusseini, Head of ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program, said the second training – which followed a course held in January – aimed to further enhance the first responder’s capacity in finding and preserving evidence about missing persons.
“The first responders’ training this week is part of ICMP work to support these field teams as they strengthen their capabilities to safeguard vital forensic evidence from conflict-related sites across northeast Syria,” she said. “This training is key to finding missing persons and to future accountability mechanisms aimed at securing the surviving families’ rights to truth and justice.”
Several course participants said the course helped them understand processes more fully and prepare to collect data and evidence in line with the rule of law to account for the missing.
The training was part of ICMP’s broader effort to lay the groundwork for to help find those who have gone missing in the context of the Syria conflict and along migration routes used by Syrians fleeing to Europe.
Global experience shows that a centralized data repository that includes all missing persons cases are key to accounting for missing persons, and ICMP maintains an impartial, centralized data repository that includes data collected from Syrian families searching for missing persons and information about sites where missing Syrians may be located. ICMP works with Syrian civil society organizations to collect data from families of the missing and entering this to the repository, which uses a secure data management system developed by ICMP and used to help find tens of thousands of persons globally.
The training was funded by the United Kingdom as part of its ongoing support to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program.
ICMP is a treaty-based international organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.