Stuttgart, 15 November 2023: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has conducted a joint Pilot Project with the Medico-Legal Directorate (MLD) of the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Directorate for Protection and Affairs of Mass Graves (MGD) of the Iraqi Martyrs’ Foundation to collect DNA reference samples from Iraqi Yazidi families of the missing residing in Germany.
The DNA Pilot Project, which is the first of its kind, took place in Stuttgart, Germany, from 4 to 12 November and resulted in the collection of more than 200 reference samples. ICMP organized the effort, which allowed the relevant Iraqi authorities to collect the data in Germany for the purpose of identifying the large number of victims of Da’esh atrocities.
“Using a DNA-led identification process is critical, not only to the identification of a missing person, but to linking the identity to the scene of the crime,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “Iraq has conducted a large number of investigations into mass and clandestine graves connected to Da’esh crimes. The collection of these additional family reference samples will help to provide evidence and also to ensure that families of the missing can secure their rights.”
Sanaa Ali, a survivor, said, “We extend our heartfelt thanks to ICMP for their invaluable support in orchestrating the DNA Pilot Project in Stuttgart. This initiative has proven to be a significant assistance for families facing numerous challenges in traveling to Iraq to provide blood samples.”
Mr. Dia Karim, Director General of the Directorate for the Protection and Affairs of Mass Graves (MGD) and Dr. Zaid Ali Abbas, Director General of the Medico-Legal Directorate (MLD), said in a statement that, “The success of reference samples collection will have a positive impact on identifying missing persons and will strengthen relationships between families of victims and state institutions charged with missing persons and mass graves files. The good planning and preparations are elements that contributed to the successful delivery of the campaign, in addition to task management among the MGD, the MLD and ICMP. We would like to thank all those who planned, contributed, supported and implemented this campaign, together with other campaigns, in the service of victims and their families.”
To ensure the protection and privacy of personal data, a Supervisory Committee has been established. This committee comprises a representative of families, a representative of the National Iraq Team, and a representative of ICMP. The committee is responsible for monitoring data collection and processing, and will issue recommendations for the next campaign.
ICMP is working collaboratively with the Iraqi authorities, families of the missing and other stakeholders to support critical initiatives such as this campaign and to sustain effective efforts to account for missing persons in Iraq.
Following a meeting with senior Iraqi officials in September 2021, ICMP launched a five-year program to support Iraq in developing a sustainable and effective process that will account for missing persons regardless of religious or political affiliation or role in conflict and that will bring justice to families.
This week’s activity was funded by the Government of the Netherlands through the support it provides to ICMP’s Iraq Program.
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, migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so.