ICMP DG on International Day of the Disappeared: End the Double Standard!

States are legally responsible for investigating missing persons cases, and they are responsible for securing the rights of all families of the missing to justice, truth and reparations.

The Hague, 28 August 2020: World leaders must end the double standard on missing persons, International Commission on Missing Persons Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared, recognized worldwide on 30 August.

States are legally responsible for investigating missing persons cases, and they are responsible for securing the rights of all families of the missing to justice, truth and reparations. These rights are non-negotiable and certainly do not depend on the income level, nationality, skin color, gender, ethnicity or religion of the missing persons and their families. They are the rights of the poor as well as the rich, of minority groups as well as majority groups. And they are the rights of women as well as men.”

Ms. Bomberger said in an op-ed published today in the European Observer.

“With huge numbers of missing persons around the world – in Syria, in Iraq, in Colombia, and in Mexico, for example, and along the dangerous migration routes in Central America, South Asia and the Mediterranean, accounting for the missing may seem an insurmountable task. But it is not. It can be done – through a systematic process that brings together all stakeholders, that applies forensic science and 21st century informatics, and that is firmly based in the rule of law,” she said.

ICMP’s experience in helping former Yugoslav countries account for more than 70 percent of the persons who went missing during the 1990s conflicts shows what is possible when all involved work together, she said.

In a video created by ICMP with financial support from the UK to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared, representatives from domestic institutions in the Western Balkans responsible for locating missing persons from the Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s and an association of families of missing persons from the region, commit to ensuring that the remaining missing persons are found.

“Work on the missing persons issue contributes to economic prosperity and the development of safety and genuine peace in the region,” Semina Alekic, a representative of the Regional Coordination of Associations of Families of Missing Persons from the Former Yugoslavia, said in the video.

Another ICMP video created to mark 30 August shares messages from representatives of civil society organizations involved in Colombia’s efforts to account for the 120,000 persons estimated by authorities to be missing from the conflict and other causes. The speakers, who represent civil society organizations and family associations, called for an end to disappearances and for accountability for the vast number of cases unresolved.

“Families of the missing have the right to know the truth about what happened to their loved ones. The state must guarantee the rights to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence,” Martha Burbano, of the civil society organization Corporation for Regional Development, said in the video.

ICMP also released a report that maps achievements and challenges of more than 100 associations of families of the missing in Colombia, and other civil society organizations that are working on the country’s missing person challenge. The report, the first of its kind, highlights the central role played by civil society in ensuring that the state fulfils its obligation to account for all missing persons, regardless of the timeframe or circumstance of their disappearance, and to secure the rights of all families of the missing.

Another video released this week documents an exchange in which Bosnian families with missing relatives urge Syrian families with missing relatives to persevere in their fight for justice. “I beg all Syrian families not to give up,” said Munira Subasic, President of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica. “I ask you to be active, to look for your missing and not to give up.”