26 November 2004: Members of a technical delegation of Iraqi missing persons officials concluded a week-long fact-finding visit to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia-Herzegovina Friday, saying they would like to apply ICMP methods to the missing persons problem in Iraq.The five-person delegation included the Iraqi Minister for Human Rights of Iraq, His Excellency Dr. Bakhtiar Amin, who departed Sarajevo on Monday, accompanied by the head of the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute. The three remaining missing persons officials, who work in the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, left Sarajevo this afternoon.
Iraqi officials estimate there are between 300,000 and one million missing persons in Iraq, believed to be buried in mass graves around the country. The goal of this fact-finding visit was for members of the delegation to learn about the assistance ICMP can offer in addressing the missing persons issue in Iraq. ICMP gave detailed introductions to its work on assisting in the formulation of government policies on missing persons issues; the technical aspects of mass grave excavation and exhumation; the scientific approach taken by ICMP in the identification of recovered human remains; the collection of centralized data and data management systems; and advocacy for and assistance in organization and empowerment of family members of the missing.
Saying they were grateful to ICMP for its willingness to provide support for resolving the missing persons issues in Iraq, members of the delegation said they were particularly impressed by the ICMP DNA-based method of identification of human remains on a mass scale. With such large numbers of missing persons, they said this method was the most efficient they had seen, and that they would like to apply it in Iraq.
Any methods would have to be adapted for factors such as the Iraqi climate and geological environment, as well as the time-frame; whereas ICMP’s work in Bosnia-Herzegovina covers those who went missing during the 1992-1995 conflict, some of the mass graves in Iraq date back to 1979.
The Iraqi Government is in the process of establishing and training a team of missing persons experts, and members of the delegation said they appreciated ICMP’s efforts to empower local professionals to take over responsibility for successfully identifying missing persons, especially using DNA technology.
ICMP Chief of Staff Kathryne Bomberger said the visit had been particularly successful. “They are now in a much better position to consider their options regarding what would be most applicable in Iraq. We are ready to offer any assistance they may need,” she said.