The Hague, 21 December 2022: – The eighth meeting of the Data Governance Group (DGG) for Syria took place on 20 and 21 December 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey. At the meeting, ICMP and participating Syrian civil society organizations took stock of progress made in collecting data on missing and disappeared persons from 11 years of conflict in Syria, and discussed the way forward in light of policy and institutional developments. The DGG aims to advance best practice in the field of missing persons data management through the sharing of experience, mutual support and problem solving.
The DGG discussed the UNOHCHR-sponsored initiative to create a specialized mechanism on missing and disappeared persons from the conflict in Syria. It resolved to direct key support towards such a mechanism when it is established. The DGG will in particular further enhance its shared repository of missing persons cases, step-up analytical support for data consolidation, and directly support the collection of genetic reference information by ICMP inside and outside Syria. The DGG expects these measures to contribute significantly to the future success of a missing persons strategy for Syria.
“The meeting was important and timely as it clarified how years of joint effort to address the issue of missing and disappeared persons will be taken forward to give answers to the families of the missing and disappeared, including through a specialized UN mechanism if established,” said Ramy Alnoman of the Free Syrian Lawyers Association, who co-chaired the meeting. The chair of the DGG was passed on to Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights.
A central repository of missing persons data is a key component of laying the foundation for a sustainable missing persons strategy for Syria that is impartial, credible and transparent. The repository will also be key to securing the rights of families of the missing to justice, truth and reparations.
Through ICMP and civil society organizations participating in the DGG, 68,000 family members of persons missing from the conflict have reported missing persons. The repository also contains information about the location of more than 50 sites in Syria where missing persons may be located, including mass and clandestine graves, in addition to genetic reference samples for DNA testing and matching.
More than 130,000 people are believed to be missing as a result of the conflict in Syria. The country also has a legacy of missing and disappeared persons cases linked to human rights abuses and other causes prior to the conflict, and thousands of Syrians who have fled the fighting have gone missing along migratory routes.
Today’s event is part of ICMP’s broader effort to address the issue of missing persons in the context of the Syrian conflict, which includes facilitating dialogue among stakeholders, and a comprehensive policy process discussion, described in an October 2020 ICMP report. ICMP also facilitates the work of a Syrian Policy Coordination Group, which is working to develop recommendations and a general policy framework on missing persons in Syria.
Today’s event was funded by the United Kingdom through the support it provides to ICMP’s Syria/MENA 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, 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.