ICMP Treaty Reflects Urgent Need to Tackle Missing Persons Problem in New Way

The treaty signed in Brussels on 15 December granting the International Commission on Missing Persons a new legal basis for global operations “reflects an emerging international recognition of the scale and seriousness of the missing persons problem – and the urgent need to address this problem in a new way,” ICMP Commissioner Knut Vollebæk wrote in a column which appeared in the Norwgian daily newspaper Vårt Land today.

“Till recently there tended to be a view that cases of missing persons are an inevitable byproduct of war and disaster and that as such they can be dealt with through humanitarian and disaster-management strategies,” Commissioner Vollebæk wrote. “However, this perception has been radically altered in the last two decades, as the missing persons problem – in every part of the world – has come to be viewed as systemic.”

Noting that “there is now widespread recognition that this is not first and foremost a humanitarian issue but a legal and political one,” he added that “today, states are expected to guarantee their citizens the right to know the truth, the right to justice and the right to an effective investigation in cases where individuals or large numbers of people go missing.”

The treaty signed on Monday by the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg establishes ICMP as a treaty-based international organization in its own right with its own structure of governance and international capacities and provides ICMP with the necessary diplomatic and administrative tools to operate internationally with greater latitude and effectiveness.

The full text of Commissioner Vollebæk’s op-ed can be accessed at www.ic-mp.org