The Hague, 28 January 2021 – First responders who locate persons missing from the ongoing conflict in Syria enhanced their capabilities to investigate missing persons cases in line with the rule of law and international best practice during a course held this week by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
The 22 first responders based in northeast Syria learned about forensic processes and safeguarding of forensic evidence, including steps to maintain a proper chain of custody for forensic evidence from mass graves and other measures to support future accountability mechanisms. The course also covered methods to collect, store and secure reliable data related to the graves’ contents. The four-day course concluded today.
Estimates cited by the United Nations in 2019 indicate that over 100,000 persons are missing as a result 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 conflict, and Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
Lena Alhusseini, Head of ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program, said the training aimed to ensure that missing persons are found and that evidence collected can be used for accountability purposes.
“The first responders face significant challenges as they work to find missing persons from conflict-related sites across northeast Syria. Their work covers different scenarios and situations, from destroyed buildings to mass grave sites,” she added.
Several course participants said the course complemented the clear understanding of the local context they have developed while conducting their work.
“I now understand how to preserve forensic evidence on potential mass graves,” stated a participant.
“I am surprised of how profound and diversified the data collected is,” added another.
The training is part of ICMP’s broader effort to address the issue of missing persons in the context of the Syria conflict and along migration routes used by Syrians fleeing to Europe. ICMP’s global experience shows that a single data repository that includes all missing persons cases are key to accounting for missing persons in the Syrian context. ICMP works with Syrian civil society organizations to collect data from families of the missing and entering this into a secure ICMP data management system that has helped find tens of thousands of persons globally.
The training was funded by the United Kingdom 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.