ICMP Chairman visits Haiti

17 February 2010: The Chairman of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) James V. Kimsey made an assessment trip to Haiti where countless numbers of persons are still missing and an estimated 200,000 people have died following the major earthquake of 12th January 2010.

The Chairman met with Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and discussed ways in which ICMP may be able to provide assistance through its Disaster Victim Identification program. The bodies of more than 75,000 people are estimated to have been buried in mass graves around the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“The International Commission on Missing Persons stands ready to provide its unique expert assistance to the government and people of Haiti as they struggle to rebuild their shattered lives. Our ability to provide DNA-assisted identification techniques may well enable families and relatives of victims to identify the remains of missing loved ones who thus can be afforded a proper burial,” said Chairman Kimsey.

In coordination with a team from Interpol, with whom ICMP signed an agreement in 2007 to provide Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) assistance, ICMP’s Head of Forensic Sciences Division Dr.Tom Parsons recently returned from an initial assessment trip to Haiti.

ICMP’s worldwide operations include the provision of assistance to the governments of the Western Balkans, Iraq, the Philippines, Chile and Colombia, as well as assistance to Kuwait, Norway, Thailand and South Africa. Their DNA laboratory system has made a total of more than 16,400 DNA-based identifications during its work assisting governments worldwide in dealing with the issue of persons missing from armed conflicts, human rights violations and natural disasters. This is the largest number of DNA-assisted identifications ever made by a single lab of persons missing from armed conflict and violations of human rights.

Since ICMP’s DNA identification system went online in November 2001, 15,388 identifications have been made of persons missing from armed conflicts in the Western Balkans.James Kimsey has been ICMP’s Chairman since 2001; the organisation was first chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance from 1996 to 1997, and by U.S. Senator Bob Dole from 1997 to 2001.