19 July 2014: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and INTERPOL Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) experts have been invited to provide assistance in identifying victims of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 crash. The team will deploy within 48 hours.
ICMP is an international, independent, non-profit organization which provides assistance to governments in locating and identifying persons missing from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime and other causes. As part of its assistance, ICMP uses modern forensic methods that incorporates the use of DNA technology to assist in large scale human identification efforts.
Created in 1996 at a G-7 Summit in Lyon, France to assist in locating missing persons from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the organization has gone on to assist over 25 countries in addressing missing persons cases from many different types of scenarios. To date, ICMP has made almost 20,000 identifications based on the use of DNA technology. The organization also maintains a database that manages over 150,000 profiles, including those obtained from post mortem samples and over 100,000 profiles obtained from reference samples voluntarily provided to ICMP by families searching for missing relatives.
ICMP and INTERPOL have a standing agreement to provide assistance in case of disasters. The two organizations first worked together to assist Thailand and other countries in the region to identify the victims of the 2004 Southeast Asian Tsunami. That was the first time that world’s police forces gathered together on such a scale to locate and identify an unprecedented number of missing persons. ICMP was able to provide assistance in using DNA to identify almost 1,000 victims, which continues to set a precedent in using DNA as the first line of identification in a disaster setting.
ICMP and INTERPOL also worked together in the Philippines in 2008 to identify victims of Typhoon Frank and they also deployed an assessment team to assist the Philippines following Typhoon Hyian. Other deployments with INTERPOL have included sending a DVI team to Haiti, following the earthquake in 2010 and the 2013 Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as responding to airline accidents. ICMP has also provided assistance to the U.S. State of Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and more recently to Canada following the Lac Mégantic train explosion in Quebec in 2013.
“ICMP would like to extend its deepest condolences to the relatives of the victims of the Malaysian airlines incident. We hope that our years of expertise and our effective cooperation with INTERPOL will allow us to respond effectively and efficiently to help the families,” stated Kathryne Bomberger, Director-General of the ICMP. “This tragedy, which has affected the nationals of so many countries, is a reminder of the need to maintain a global capacity to respond to such incidents,” she added.
ICMP is best known for having assisted the governments in the region of the Western Balkans account for over 70 % of the 40,000 persons missing from the conflicts of the 1990’s.
ICMP endeavors to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, human rights abuses, disasters, 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.
ICMP is funded through voluntary grants, donations and contributions from over 25 participating governments.