Iraqi Human Rights Minister Studies ICMP Work on Missing Persons

22 November 2004: At the end of a four-day visit with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Minister for Human Rights of Iraq, His Excellency Dr. Bakhtiar Amin, said Monday that the experiences of ICMP and of Bosnia-Herzegovina could help in finding ways to address the missing persons issue in Iraq.The Iraqi Government estimates there are more than one million missing persons in Iraq, buried in mass graves across the country. But with few facilities or specialists, the Government recognizes it is ill-equipped to deal with the missing persons issue.

ICMP, an international organization funded through grants, donations and contributions from participating governments, was initially established to address the missing persons issue in the former Yugoslavia. It has focused exclusively on missing persons since its foundation in 1996 and has developed extensive expertise on the issue. Dr. Amin said he was greatly impressed by the work of ICMP and that his visit had been an opportunity to learn from ICMP and the Bosnian experience. “We hope to continue cooperating with ICMP,” he said. “We see them as an important partner for us; their experience and expertise in the missing persons issue will be very useful in Iraq.”

During his visit, Dr. Amin and his delegation of technical experts visited ICMP facilities in Sarajevo and Tuzla, learning about support that ICMP can give in the formulation of government policy on missing persons, on scientific support that can facilitate the recovery and identification of human remains, and on assistance given by ICMP to empower family members of the missing.

Dr. Amin was particularly moved by his visit with ICMP to the Potocari Memorial, where victims of the 1995 fall of Srebrenica are buried. There he met with family members of the missing who explained to him their experiences. He said he admired their efforts to push the process of identification and memorialization of the missing. “Their courage and efforts had a great impact on the progress that has been made,” he said. “It is important for us to work with the families in Iraq and to encourage them to organize and create their own associations, as they have done here.”

The Minister was extremely moved by the stories of the family members. “The pain and suffering of the families of the disappeared are very similar. They have common tears, no matter where they come from,” he said.