Baghdad, Iraq 8 November 2020 — The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), along with other international partners, supported Iraqi authorities during recent excavations of several mass graves in the Sinjar area and a campaign to collected information and blood samples from families with missing relatives.
The excavations and the campaign began with a launch event held 24 October and ended 5 November. Experts from Iraq’s Mass Graves Directorate and Medico-Legal Directorate excavated three mass grave sites in the area, recovering more than 100 bodies. In addition, more than 100 bags of evidence were secured from the sites. The Iraqi experts work on mass grave sites also included technical assessments of new locations.
ICMP and the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) supported the Iraqi experts during the excavation.
Concurrently with the excavation work, Iraqi authorities also collected information from families with missing persons, resulting in the filing of almost 200 new missing persons cases and the collection of nearly 300 new blood reference samples. DNA profiles extracted from the blood samples will be compared with profiles extracted from the recovered remains. Authorities will use the comparison results to try to determine kinship between victims found in the graves and surviving families.
“ICMP supports the work of the Iraq national teams in investigating Yazidi and other missing persons cases. This is a good example state responsibility in secure the rights of families of the missing. Accounting for the missing is key to developing a peaceful, stable society,” said Alexander Hug, Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program. “ICMP welcomes the Iraqi authorities’ progress in this operation despite difficult conditions compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Yazda Organization provided mental health and psychosocial support to families and communities. The leader of the local Yazidi community, Al Mandkan, provided logistical support. The National Coordination Committee, ICMP, UNITAD and other partners planned and prepared the work. Nineveh province institutions, including Western Nineveh Operations Command, and staff provided security services.
ICMP began working with Iraqi institutions in 2005. It established an office in Baghdad in 2008 and in Erbil in 2010. ICMP’s assists Iraq in creating a sustainable process to locate all missing persons, regardless of the period of disappearance, the circumstances, or the national/sectarian origin of the missing persons and to secure the rights of all surviving families to truth, justice and reparations. ICMP is also helping Iraq create purpose-specific institutions and legislation that are key to a sustainable process, including a central institution to coordinate the effort and a central database that collects all records of al missing persons.
ICMP’s work in Iraq is financed by Germany, the Netherlands and the United States Department of State.
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 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.