ICMP Assists Authorities With Reference Sample Collection in Northern Iraq

Baghdad, 19 October 2019: The Mass Graves Directorate (MGD) of the Martyrs’ Foundation, the Medico-Legal Directorate (MLD) of the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs (MoMAA) of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, with the help of the International Commission on Mission Persons (ICMP), have launched a campaign to collect genetic reference samples from families of the missing in Northern Iraq.

The collection of samples, which will take place in the Qadiya IDP camp in Duhok Governorate, began today, and during the campaign, the Iraqi institutions will be supported by staff from ICMP’s Data Coordination and Civil Society Initiatives department.

Reference sample collection is an essential component in the current process of identifying human remains that have been exhumed from mass graves in the village of Kocho, in Sinjar. This exercise will also serve as a model for future excavations.

The campaign was launched at a seminar organized by ICMP at Qadiya Camp. Representatives from the MGD, MLD, MoMAA, and ICMP, briefed families on the reference sample collection process, highlighting the ways in which families can participate actively in the process, and explaining what will happen to the samples after they have been collected.

This campaign follows earlier initiatives by the MGD, MLD, MoMAA, and ICMP to excavate mass grave sites in the Kocho area and to reach out to families of the missing in the area. In August 2019, ICMP’s Data Systems and Data Coordination Department provided training for MDG and MLD staff in Baghdad in ante-mortem data and reference sample collection.  ICMP is also providing logistical support and mentoring and monitoring Iraqi partners’ field staff throughout the campaign.

The Iraqi institutions have described the campaign as a cornerstone of efforts to address the issue of missing persons.

“This is the first joint reference sample collection campaign in the camps, and it is critical for the identification of missing persons,” said MLD Director-General Dr. Zaid Ali Abbass Al-Yousif.

The Head of the Martyrs’ Foundation’s Mass Graves Directorate, Mr. Dheyaa Kareem Tuama Mohammed, also noted that “The campaign is an important element in the chain of the long identification process.”

Mr. Bakhtiar Faraj Saeed, Director General in the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, said “that the ministry is part of the national team and will continue to work together in these complex procedures inside camps to support the matching process”.

The recently-appointed Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, Rasa Ostrauskaite, cited the initiative as “an example of ICMP’s continuing support for the Iraqi authorities and its commitment to helping stakeholders in Iraq to expand domestic capacity, through the transfer of technology and expertise.”

Among other things, Ms Ostrauskaite drew attention to the support provided by Mr Mohammed Al Tamimi, the Head of Non-Governmental Organization Department in the Iraqi Council of Ministries, in organizing the campaign.

* * *

The Mass Graves Directorate, the Medico-Legal Directorate, and the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs are the agencies mandated to address the issue of missing persons in Iraq.

ICMP is a treaty-based international 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 the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.