The Hague, 21 October 2020 – The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) recently began assessing Libya’s institutional, legal and technical capacities to address the issue of disappeared and other missing persons in a project that aims to lay the foundations for a sustainable process to account for missing persons.
The assessment includes mapping of stakeholders, civil society organizations and families of the missing.
Libya has a legacy of persons missing from the Muammar Gaddafi era, including wars with neighboring countries, the conflicts of 2011, the ongoing so-called “Second Libyan Civil War,” which began in 2014, as well as cases of missing migrants and refugees.
The ICMP assessment includes a review of activities undertaken so far in relation to recently discovered mass graves in Tarhuna and elsewhere in Libya. The discovery of these graves underlines the need for effective investigations of missing persons cases that can lead to accountability.
Libya currently has limited resources devoted to addressing large numbers of missing persons, and the domestic institutions whose work is relevant to locating missing persons are not coordinating their actions. This situation increases the risk that evidence could be compromised, which could hinder efforts to account for missing persons in line with the rule of law, including by prosecuting perpetrators and securing the rights of all families of the missing, regardless of the timeframe or circumstances of disappearances.
ICMP’s assessment, expected to be concluded early next year, will identify challenges faced by all stakeholders who are essential in addressing the missing persons situation in Libya. It will determine where resources and capacities are missing and provide recommendations for next steps.
“The long-term goal is to help Libya to establish a sustainable process to account for missing persons in a manner that upholds the human rights of families of the missing,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger.
The assessment report, which is supported by the Dutch Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, will be presented to an international audience including the Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law Working Group/Berlin Process.
“Addressing the issue of the missing is important for Libya’s aspirations to respect human rights law and international humanitarian law, and to ensure accountability where crimes and violations have been committed. It contributes to breaking the cycle of violence,” said the Dutch Ambassador to Libya, Lars Tummers. “Families and friends of the missing are in dire need of answers. These violations demand a response that ensures clarity to the families of the fate of their loved ones, who have a right to truth, justice, and redress. With our support to ICMP project we hope to further assist the Libyan efforts on this key issue.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Richard B. Norland, said: “Forced disappearances are an outrage. Beyond the tragic circumstances imposed on victims and their families, these crimes generate insecurity throughout society as a whole. Our goal is to help build Libya’s capacity to account for missing persons, which is an important step towards making it safer for all Libyans to have a voice in the future of their country.”
ICMP worked in Libya from 2012 to 2014, supporting work by authorities to identify 150 persons and collect 11,000 genetic reference samples from families of the missing. ICMP facilitated cooperation between the government and civil society and supported work to improve or develop an institutional and legal framework to account for the missing.
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 tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.