Baghdad, 18 March 2021 – Thirty representatives from as many Iraqi civil society organizations strengthened their ability to assist families of missing persons in the missing persons process, including helping them to report disappearances and apply for compensation, during a two-week International Commission on Missing Person course that ended today.
Sessions during the course, held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, detailed what families of missing persons in Iraq need to do to report their missing relatives, and what they need to do to apply for compensation under the Iraqi law on Compensating People Affected by War Operations, Military Mistakes, and Terrorist Actions (Law No. 20). The participants represent organizations with extensive experience of assisting families of missing persons located across Iraq.
The Director General of Iraq’s Directorate on Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Operations, Tariq Jehan, and Nawsherwan Sharif Saeed, General Director of Administration and Finance of the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, attended parts of the training and answered participants’ questions.
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.
“Families of the missing face numerous challenges. The first step in efforts to account for missing relatives is to file a missing person report, something that can be complicated,” said Alexander Hug, head of ICMP’s Iraq Program. “Support in applying for compensation is also important: because the majority of the missing in Iraq are men, many female-headed households face a loss of income and financial difficulties.”
Sozan Safar, President of the Dak Organization for Ezidi Women Development, said the training will enable her organization to better help families of the missing. “I will work on spreading awareness among many people about the importance of reporting and the process for it, especially for women and survivors of violence,” she said.
Mohanad Al-Quraishi of the Takatuf Organization said he enhanced his skills on the legal framework, which will deepen the organization’s human rights work. “Thanks to this training and ICMP’s efforts, we will be able to work systematically for the rights of families of the missing,” he said.
The course, part of ICMP’s work to strengthen Iraqi civil society’s participation in the country’s missing person process, was facilitated by ICMP’s Wim Kok Center for Excellence and Learning.
ICMP’s support to the Iraqi government’s efforts to fulfil its responsibilities to victims and their families began in 2008. This includes training scientists in advanced DNA identification procedures, supporting excavations of mass graves and the collection of genetic reference samples, as well as supporting civil society organizations and families of the missing in efforts to secure their rights to justice, truth and reparations. ICMP works with the authorities to advance an impartial approach to the issue of the missing and to foster collaboration among religious and national groups. It also assists in efforts to establish a central record of missing persons and to facilitate dialogue between the government and families of the missing and civil society organizations.
Earlier this year, ICMP supported Iraqi authorities in work that led to the burial last month of 104 Yezidi victims who had been missing since Da’esh attacked the Sinjar district in 2014.
The course was financed by the United States, which supports ICMP’s work in Iraq along with the Netherlands and Germany.
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.