Erbil, 3 December 2019. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Commission for Investigation and Gathering Evidence (CIGE) held a seminar at the CIGE office in Duhok this week, which included the participation of representatives from both federal Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities: the Mass Graves Directorate of the Martyr’s Foundation, the Medico-Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Martyr’s and Anfal Affairs (KRG). The seminar aimed to update Yezidi families about the components of the missing persons process related to crimes committed by IS, including: phases of excavations in Kocho, reference sample collection, and civil society and family engagement with the Yezidi community throughout 2019.
Representatives of the international community including the European Union, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, GIZ, the German Consulate in Erbil attended the seminar in addition to national authorities, providing an opportunity to listen first hand to the concerns of Yezidi families of the missing.
Rasa Ostrauskaite, the Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, highlighted that families must be at the heart of the missing persons process, and encouraged Yezidi families participating in the seminar to express their concerns and desires freely. She said that events such as these are central to the Yezidi community accessing their rights to truth and justice through having a platform to address relevant authorities. Ms. Ostrauskaite stated ICMP will continue to offer its support to Iraqi authorities, as well as civil society and families of the missing, in the process of locating and identifying missing persons in Iraq.
Deputy Minister of the KRG Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, Baravan Hamdi, and the KRG Coordinator for International Advocacy, Dinar Zebari, also took part in the meeting. Deputy Minister Hamdi Hamdi called reiterated the KRG’s support for the Yezidi community and its commitment to work with federal Iraqi authorities on the location and identification of missing Yezidis.
Amer Jabar, Deputy Head of the Mass Graves Directorate of the Martyrs’ Foundation and Hussam Abdulrzaq Mohammad, Head of the database section at the Iraqi Ministry of Health’s Medico-Legal Directorate reported on the forensic aspect of the missing persons process related to Yezidis, including the excavations in Kocho this year and a reference sample collection campaign deployed in Qadiya IDP camp in October this year targeting Yezidis from Kocho.
The seminar concluded with an important forum allowing families to address government authorities working on Yezidi missing persons. Questions raised focused on the continuation of excavations, inquiries as to what family members are best placed to donate reference samples, and the search for missing Yezidis presumed to be alive. Both federal government and KRG authorities responded to questions from both a technical forensic perspective, as well as committing to work with families in future endeavors related to Yezidi missing persons.
Iraq has hundreds of thousands of missing persons cases, including those missing from the Saddam Hussein regime. ICMP has worked with the authorities in Iraq since 2003, helping survivors to access their rights and helping the authorities to account for all missing persons, regardless of their sectarian or national background, or the period of time in which they disappeared.
ICMP is a treaty-based international 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.
ICMP’s Iraq program is supported by the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI).