Baghdad, 18 February 2021 – Key Iraqi government entities involved in the process finding the large number of missing persons from the regime of Saddam Hussein to more recent Da’esh crimes will use a specialized data management system developed by the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP).
ICMP will donate its Identification Data Management System (iDMS), along with computers and servers, to help Iraq collect, process and share data, which is key to finding the over 250,000 to 1 million persons estimated to be missing by Iraqi authorities.
The donation will enable the government to take steps toward establishing a central record that includes information on all persons missing in Iraq and their families. Such records are needed in any sustainable process to find all missing persons regardless of their ethnic or religious background, their roles in conflicts or their political affiliation.
The donation will enable Iraq the Ministry of Health’s Medico-Legal Directorate (MLD) and the Martyr’s Foundation’s Mass Graves Affairs and Protection Directorate (MGD) to use the software to securely collect, analyze and store large amounts of information related to Iraq’s missing persons and their families.
The ICMP-developed software, called the Identification Data Management System (iDMS), has proven effective in handling large-scale missing person scenarios. ICMP also will train Iraqi experts in using the system to document, store and analyze data from each step of the missing persons process, including data obtained from families of the missing, from mass grave sites and from DNA profile analysis in laboratories. Such data processing enables the comparison of DNA profiles from family members with profiles extracted from remains, with matching profiles supporting identification.
The use of iDMS was a key component in efforts that led to the identification of more than 75 percent of the 40,000 who were missing at the end of the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia. It also has been used to support identification of victims of disasters, including the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami.
“The equipment, software and training will help Iraqi authorities intensify and accelerate their efforts to account for missing persons,” said Alexander Hug, Head of ICMP in Iraq. “This is a much-needed and welcome step forward, particularly considering the large number of Iraqi families who are missing relatives.”
Iraqi authorities estimate that between 250,000 and 1 million persons are missing in the country. They have disappeared as a result of decades of conflict and human rights abuse, including atrocities committed during the Ba’ath Party regime, wars and atrocities committed by Da’esh. Iraqis who have left the country also are missing, including victims who have died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
States are obliged under national and international law to investigate the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, including the circumstances of their disappearance. They are also obliged to fulfil families’ rights to truth, justice and reparations.
Saad Al Alabdaly, a member of the Board of Advisers to the Prime Minister’s Office, welcomed the donation.
“These applications will improve both MLD’s and MGD’s ability to conduct better excavations, collect and store DNA profiles extracted from blood samples from victims’ families,” he said. “It will support our work to identify remains so that they can be buried.”
MGD Director General Diaa Karim noted the long-standing cooperation between ICMP and Iraqi authorities and said the iDMS was “considered the stepping stone in establishing a central national record on missing persons.”
MLD Director General Zaid Ali Abbas said the donation would “facilitate access to information shared by both parties working on the mass graves and missing persons files, as stated in the Mass Graves Law.”
The donation was agreed on in a ceremony on 15 February 2021 in Baghdad that was also attended by Hussein Al-Fadhily from Prime Minister’s Office, members of Iraq’s National Coordination Committee and ICMP Iraq Program Deputy Head Fawaz Abdulabbas.
ICMP supported Iraqi authorities in work that led to the recent burial of 104 Yezidi victims who had been missing since Da’esh attacked the Sinjar district in 2014.
ICMP’s support to the Iraqi government’s efforts to fulfil its responsibilities to victims and their families began in 2008. This support includes training scientists in advanced DNA identification procedures, supporting excavations of mass graves and assisting civil society and families of the missing. ICMP works with the authorities to assist in efforts to establish a central body responsible for accounting for all missing persons and a central record of missing persons, elements that are key to successful missing persons programs.
The donation is financed by the Netherlands, which funds ICMP’s work in Iraq along with Germany and the United States.
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.