Baghdad, 27 June 2019. As part of its continuous support for the authorities in Iraq, a team from the Archeology and Anthropology Department of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is working on the third phase of exhumations of mass graves in the village of Kocho, in the Sinjar area of Nineveh Province.
The ICMP team is providing technical expertise and resources to support the Iraqi National Team, which is working with the UN Investigative Team (UNITAD) that is tasked with supporting accountability for crimes committed by Da’esh.
“ICMP has a unique collection of expertise, which it has developed by working on efforts to account for large numbers of missing persons in many parts of the world,” the Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program, Adi Rizvic, said today. “It is essential that the exhumations in Kocho and elsewhere are conducted in a manner that results in conclusive identifications, and that evidence is collected and properly stored so that it can be presented in court in the event of future trials for war crimes and human rights violations.”
In addition to field support, ICMP has provided the National Team with training in locating and documenting mass graves. It is also supporting anthropologists from the National Team working in the Medico-Legal Department of the Ministry of Health in Baghdad in the process of examining human remains exhumed from the mass graves in Kocho in the two earlier phases. ICMP is also working with its partners from the Government of Iraq to reach out to families of the missing to ensure their active participation in the missing persons process.
In 2016 and early 2019, the National Team with the support of ICMP secured and protected dozens of suspected mass grave sites in Sinjar District, related to atrocities committed by Da’esh. Protection efforts are geared towards ensuring the proper safeguarding of evidence and sites of forensic interest ahead of excavations.
The Iraqi Government estimates that between 250,000 and one million people are missing as a consequence of decades of conflict and human rights abuses. Since 2005, ICMP has helped Iraq to develop long-term strategies to account for the missing regardless of ethnic, religious or national origin and to secure the rights of families regardless of the circumstances of disappearance. It has provided extensive training in the recovery of mass graves and the collection of reference samples, and worked with the relevant institutions on the excavation of mass graves.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. 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.