April 24, 2018

ICMP’s Constructive Contribution to The Hague

By Ms Kathryne Bomberger, Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons.

The Commissioners of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) held their annual meeting in Stockholm on 1 June, a year after ICMP formally opened its new headquarters in The Hague, and two and a half years after ICMP was established as an International Organization in its own right under a treaty signed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg. In Stockholm, the Commissioners reviewed ICMP’s remarkable development over the last twelve months and examined key ways in which it can continue to coordinate the international effort to address the issue of missing persons.

On a practical level, ICMP’s headquarters at Koninginnegracht 12 are now fully operational. Our core team in The Hague is being expanded, and in the coming months we will bring remaining administrative functions to The Hague from Sarajevo (where ICMP’s headquarters were located from 1996 until 2015). We will also establish a new DNA laboratory here, working in close cooperation with Dutch agencies such as the Netherlands Forensic Institute and also with leading multinationals such as the Qiagen biotechnology company.

The demanding process of re-location has been made possible through the generous and support of the Dutch authorities, especially the Foreign Ministry and the City of The Hague. At the opening of ICMP’s headquarters on 7 July 2016, Foreign Minister Bert Koenders delivered a valuable and valued vote of confidence when he said that “as long as people go missing in this world, as a result of conflict, government repression, humanitarian crises, or other causes, ICMP will have a role to play. We are ready to work with you.” The Dutch authorities really have been with us all along the way, providing financial, diplomatic and practical support, and we certainly intend to honor our part of the bargain by making a constructive contribution to the diplomatic and scientific life of The Hague. From our headquarters here, we are coordinating programs throughout the world.

ICMP has benefited from long-term Dutch support for its program the Western Balkans, where ICMP spearheaded the effort that made it possible to account for more than 70 percent of those who went missing in the 1990s, including 7,000 of the 8,000 men and boys who went missing at Srebrenica in July 1995. Today, ICMP is helping its partners in the region to maintain the effort to account for 12,000 people who are still missing.

Between 2012 and 2014, ICMP operated a successful pilot program in Libya, before being forced to withdraw from the country because of renewed fighting. It has been active in Iraq since 2003 and is currently expanding its program there, training Iraqi experts in crime-scene management and DNA-led identification techniques throughout the country, including areas recently liberated from Da’esh. ICMP is also supporting associations of families of the missing and working with authorities throughout Iraq to develop a coordinated and law-based approach to the issue of missing persons.

In Colombia, ICMP was invited by the parties to the Peace Agreement to help the authorities establish a Search Unit that will coordinate the effort to account for more than 65,000 people who disappeared during five decades of conflict. ICMP has also conducted consultations with government authorities and civil society in Sri Lanka, now grappling with the challenge of accounting for tens of thousands of missing from the war that ended in 2009.

ICMP is launching a program to assist families from the Syrian conflict in finding their missing relatives. The aim is to establish a future system of locating and identifying those who have gone missing as a result of the conflict.

We are also working with government authorities and other organizations to establish a program that will make it possible to begin identifying the rising numbers of irregular migrants who have been drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean.

New projects will rely heavily on the knowledge base built over the last 20 years through our cross-cutting programs and will require extensive operational planning, thorough induction programs for new staff, and strategic support from donor and other countries in order to set in place office agreements and other legal and political arrangements that are needed.

ICMP is playing its leading role in addressing the global challenge of missing persons in the context of an emerging international consensus that this issue – like the issues of organized crime, people trafficking and drug smuggling – cuts across judicial and national jurisdictions and can only be tackled effectively by applying dedicated techniques as part of a coordinated multinational approach.

ICMP’s work is premised on the fact that missing persons can be found and that the rights of survivors – to truth, to justice, and to reparations – can likewise be met. This is validated through ICMP’s successful deployment of political, social and scientific strategies that have been honed over more than 20 years.

Today, from our headquarters in The Hague, ICMP is leading a global effort to mitigate human suffering and to help governments ensure that the issue of missing persons does not undermine efforts to consolidate peace and global security. We believe that our work will benefit immensely from our proximity to other international organizations and agencies in The Hague and that in turn we can contribute to their efforts through our expertise and experience.


Comments are closed.