The Hague, 25 February 2021 – A Syrian Policy Coordination Group (PCG) that will work to develop recommendations for a policy framework for a future missing person process in Syria, recently established with the support of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), held an introductory meeting today.
The group’s 25 Syrian members include families of the missing, legal experts, human rights defenders, members of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, and civil society representatives residing inside and outside Syria. International experts offer support as advisors and subject matter experts. ICMP acts as both the secretariat and facilitator of the group’s work. The goal of the PCG is to develop a strategic policy framework to influence the development of domestic, regional and international mechanisms to find the many Syrians who are missing, both within and outside of Syria.
In today’s online meeting, group members discussed previous policy discussions facilitated by ICMP, which are outlined in an ICMP report titled ‘Accounting for Missing Persons is an Investment in Peace: Policy Process With Syrian Civil Society and Families of the Missing’ . That report sums up a year of ICMP-facilitated policy discussions among Syrian civil society organizations and partners, discussions that ended with a set of recommendations that included the establishment of the PCG.
The PCG aims to develop broad recommendations and a policy framework for a future official Syrian missing persons process, which include the development of purpose-specific legislation and institutions and measures for reparations for families of the missing, as well as an examination of the issues of detention, data processing and protection, and operational matters in relation to mass graves.
A 2021 UN report estimates that 100,000 persons are missing because of the current conflict in Syria. In addition, the country has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes that occurred prior to the decade-long conflict, and Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
In their meeting today, PCG members discussed challenges, lessons learned, opportunities and ways forward in the missing persons process, and outlined policy priorities and modalities for the group’s work in the coming 18 months.
Group members noted the need to take immediate actions on the issue of the missing and develop innovative policies and strategies that are both immediate and longer term.
“The issue of the missing is the most important current issue in the Syrian conflict; the world needs to act to end the agony of the disappeared and their families,” one group member said in the meeting, held under Chatham Rules.
ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger welcomed the group’s inaugural meeting.
“The establishment of the PCG is a key step in work that aims to secure justice for the missing and their families. The group will lay the groundwork for a sustainable missing persons process in a future Syria that includes the use of a central repository of information on missing Syrians,” she said, adding that central repositories are key to successful missing persons programs. “The current repository on Syrian missing and disappeared persons cases, held on ICMP’s secure servers, contains information on almost 18,000 Syrian missing and disappeared persons cases, and the number is growing.”
ICMP’s support to the group is financed by the European Union as part of its ongoing support to ICMP’s Syria/MENA program.
ICMP is a treaty-based international organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.