Erbil, 6 August 2018: It is four years since Da’esh occupied Nineveh Governorate in Iraq and launched a campaign of enforced disappearance, enslavement and summary execution that has left a legacy of mass graves. More than a year has passed since the area, which includes the district of Sinjar and the city of Mosul, was retaken by forces of the Baghdad government amid a high rate of military and civilian casualties. Today, volunteer teams in Mosul are collecting and storing human remains in makeshift conditions, while a systematic process of exhuming mass graves in Sinjar is not yet underway.
Faced with the urgent need to address this issue, local authorities in Nineveh have reached out directly to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). At a meeting on 25 July with the Head of ICMP’s Iraq program, Lena Larsson, the Chair of Nineveh Provincial Council, Bashar Al-Kiki, announced that the Provincial Council would establish two new missing persons centers in Nineveh Province. ICMP responded quickly and constructively to a request for assistance from the Nineveh Provincial Council.
On 5 August, ICMP facilitated a workshop at the Commission for Investigation and Gathering Evidence (CIGE) premises in Dohuk. Dohuk is in the region adjacent to Nineveh and already has in place an effective missing persons operation supported by ICMP.
In addition to representatives of CIGE, participants at Sunday’s workshop included members of the Nineveh Provincial Council and relevant officials, as well as staff from the Kurdish Regional Government’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs and High Commission for Human Rights, and the Duhok Office for Rescuing Yezidi.
“An important task that can be facilitated by ICMP is contact with the families, to ensure that there is full understanding of the process and of the rights of families,” Ms Larsson said, adding that “strengthened cooperation between the federal government and the KRG” would enhance the long-term effectiveness of the missing persons process.
Ghazwan al-Daoudi, the Nineveh Council Chairman’s representative at Sunday’s workshop, explained that the 25 July decision is binding and that all the institutions in the province will follow the decision. He stressed that the Provincial Council will take all necessary steps to ensure the launch and the success of the two missing persons centers.
CIGE is already engaged in a successful initiative with ICMP under which it is uploading data to ICMP’s Identification Data Management System (iDMS). The iDMS supports the process of storing, processing and analyzing data on missing persons investigations and identifications. ICMP makes the iDMS available to governments, families of the missing, technical experts and others. Sunday’s workshop focused on ways in which CIGE’s cooperation on data management with ICMP can be transferred to the new missing persons centers.
Judge Ayman Mostafa, who is head of CIGE, said cooperation with ICMP had helped CIGE systemize the data it has collected and that it now wishes to coordinate with the Nineveh authorities in collecting data from families.
Participants agreed to cooperate further to tackle the issue of missing persons in Nineveh Governorate, including steps to ensure that ICMP and its partners are able to work effectively in the province. ICMP promised to provide the Council with the technical expertise that will be required in order to implement the decision of 25 July.
ICMP been working in Iraq since 2003, building close and constructive relationships with the authorities at all levels and establishing a comprehensive capacity to respond to realities on the ground. ICMP assisted in the development of the 2006 Law on the Protection of Mass Graves, and since 2008 it has delivered more than 100 technical assistance and training activities, expanding in concrete and practical ways the country’s capacity to address the issue of the missing.
ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with headquarters in The Hague. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying 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 activities in Iraq are currently supported by the European Union and the governments of Canada, the US, and Germany.