The Hague, 11 March 2022: The Policy Coordination Group (PCG), a Syrian-led initiative on the missing and disappeared facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), released a paper at an event this week on proposed legislation designed to support a process of finding missing persons from the Syria conflict1. It is hoped that such legislation would be considered in the context of future deliberations on a political settlement. The proposed legislation also addresses measures to secure the rights of victims and their families.
“The proposed law is a step forward in the process of ensuring that the rights of missing persons, survivors, and their families are safeguarded in a future Syria,” said the Head of ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program, Lena Alhusseini.
During its session this week, the PCG also discussed a draft paper on investigations related to mass graves in Syria. This paper proposes measures that would help to identify the victims of mass graves and understand the circumstances of their deaths. It also includes provisions to hold perpetrators accountable and provides reparations for victims’ families.
“Proper investigations into human rights violations, including excavations of mass and clandestine graves in Syria, is essential not only for the victims’ families but also in terms of the deceased, for whom there has been a lack of respect for the sanctity of their human remains and the absence of a dignified resting place,” said PCG Researcher and Moderator Nael Georges.
The virtual meeting that took place this week was the eighth session of the PCG since it was established following a conference organized by ICMP in The Hague in February 2020. The PCG comprises 27 members, including Syrian family associations, civil society organizations, legal and human rights defenders, and international advisors. It aims to develop broad recommendations and a policy framework for a future Syrian missing persons process, including purpose-specific legislation and institutions. The PCG has released several documents related to Syria’s missing, including an Ethical Charter on Data Collection and Documentation, a UPR submission to the UN Human Rights Council, and Constitutional Provisions.
More than 130,000 people are believed to be missing as a result of the conflict in Syria. In addition, the country has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes prior to the conflict, and thousands of Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
ICMP’s assistance to the PCG is funded by the European Union (EU) through the support it provides to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program. The PCG is part of ICMP’s strategy to help lay the
foundations for a sustainable missing persons process for Syria. ICMP is also actively engaged in creating a central data repository of missing persons from Syria. To date, ICMP has collected data from more than 60,000 Syrian families of the missing, including genetic reference samples for DNA testing and matching.
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.