The Hague, 15 February 2019: Representatives of the Iraqi institutions dealing with the issue of missing persons met throughout this week at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Headquarters in The Hague to examine ways in which ICMP can help Iraq to account for hundreds of thousands of missing people, including those who have gone missing as a result of Da’esh crimes.
The meeting concluded with a set of recommendations on concrete steps through which ICMP can assist the authorities of Iraq during 2019 and beyond. These recommendations respond to a set of challenges defined in “Mass Graves in Iraq” a document produced by the Department of Protection and Mass Graves Affairs of the Martyrs’ Foundation.
In Iraq, between 250,000 and one million people have gone missing from decades of conflict and human rights abuse. Iraq has taken very positive steps to address the issue through legislation and the establishment of institutions, including creating a Law on Mass Graves and ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CPPED). ICMP has worked with the authorities since 2005. It contributed to the development of the Law on Protection of Mass Graves, and it has trained more than 500 Iraqi specialists from the relevant ministries in various aspects of missing persons investigations, as well as providing assistance at excavation sites. ICMP has also provided advanced technical assistance in data systems technologies and DNA-based identification processes and supported the work of civil society organizations and families of the missing.
The recommendations formulated at the conclusion of this week’s meeting were that:
- ICMP should assist the Iraqi authorities in developing comprehensive strategies that can identify gaps in the current institutional and legislative landscape and propose solutions through continuous dialogue and participatory processes;
- ICMP should provide continued support for the establishment of a system of central records of all missing persons from Iraq’s recent past, as well as enhancing data processing and protection mechanisms and instituting centralized data processing systems connecting responsible authorities and institutions;
- ICMP should provide expertise and technical advice on the formation of an institutional and legislative framework to secure rights to justice, truth and reparations and corresponding procedural and administrative rights, with a particular focus on ensuring that the specific rights of women survivors are upheld;
- ICMP should assist the Iraqi authorities in developing a coordinated strategy for locating and recovering missing persons, based on impartial and transparent evidence-based criteria, and additionally, developing forensic quality assurance standards in laboratories and at crime scenes to permit effective utility in justice proceedings; and
- ICMP should strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) in their work with families of the missing and in building bridges with government authorities.
Participants agreed on the substance of a draft Memorandum of Understanding between ICMP and the Government of Iraq, which will now be presented to the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The opening session on Monday was chaired by H.E. Dr. Hisham Al-Alawi, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. The working sessions were co-chaired by Director-General Bomberger and Mr. Mohammed Tahir Al-Tamimi, Director-General of the NGO Directorate, acting in this case in his capacity as Head of the Operations Room for Coordination of Iraqi Authorities’ Efforts in Liberated Areas. Senior officials participating in the workshop included Mr. Dheyaa Kareem Tuama Mohammed, Head of the Mass Graves Directorate, Dr. Zaid Ali Abbas Al-Yousf, Director-General of the Medico-Legal Directorate, and Mr. Haider Rashid Sawadi, Head of the EU Division in the Europe Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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 the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.