Nepal Needs Holistic Approach to Missing Persons Issue

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Members of the Common Platform, a coalition of family members and groups representing victims of the 1996-2006 conflict in Nepal, have highlighted the challenge of accounting for the 1,300 people still missing from the decade-long conflict in Nepal.

Thirteen members of the Common Platform visited ICMP’s offices in Sarajevo this week, where they toured the DNA laboratory, and were briefed on ICMP’s operations around the globe before meeting members of the Regional Coordination, an organization that groups together associations of families of the missing from former Yugoslavia.

The visitors highlighted the challenges facing those who are seeking to account for the missing in Nepal, which include rugged terrain and the relative inaccessibility of many parts of the country.

Thousands of people were victims of enforced disappearance during the conflict between Maoist insurgents and the Royalist government. The conflict ended with a peace agreement that…

Roadmap on Long-Term Missing Persons Program in Albania

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A delegation from the Albanian Government completed a three-day study trip to ICMP’s offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina today. In April, ICMP staff held talks with officials in Tirana following a government invitation to visit the country. ICMP and the relevant institutions in Albania are now developing a roadmap to address the issue of around 6,000 people believed to have gone missing as a result of political persecution between 1944 and 1991.

The Albanian delegation, comprising Ermira Shtino of the Directorate for Policy for the formerly-Persecuted, Laura Saro of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, Orkid Spahiu of the Institute for the Integration of Politically Persecuted Persons, and Refik Golli of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited ICMP’s laboratories in Sarajevo and Tuzla as well as the Podrinje Identification Project in Tuzla; they were briefed on all aspects of ICMP programs…

Accounting for the missing in Sri Lanka


Six years after the end of what is generally regarded as the longest armed conflict in Asia, relatives still search for answers about the whereabouts of their missing family members. The precise number of persons who are missing as a result of the Sri Lankan conflict remains a matter of dispute. Media reports highlight the discrepancies between numbers given by government and non-government agencies and numbers based on cases reported by families searching for their relatives.  The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 5,671 reported cases of wartime-related disappearance in Sri…

ICMP Director Wins Prestigious International Science Award


In September, the Director of ICMP’s Forensic Science Department, Dr Thomas Parsons, was awarded the 2015 Scientific Prize by the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG). Dr Parsons is only the tenth person since 1987 to receive the award for outstanding scientific work in the field of forensic genetics, which is presented at two-year intervals but only when it is deemed that there is a recipient who merits the accolade.

Dr Parsons was honored for his signal contribution to genetic science, including his formulation of “the most efficient protocols and interpretation guidelines” for analyzing mitochondrial DNA and maximizing yields when extracting DNA from old and/or degraded bone samples – two of the key elements in human remains identification. The Prize cites Dr. Parsons’ “work in human mitochondrial DNA analysis and the identification of victims of war and disaster.”

Presenting the award at the ISFG’s…

A Contribution to Addressing the Migration and Refugees Crisis


By the end of September half a million people had crossed the Mediterranean in 2015, well over double the figure for the whole of 2014.

Almost 3,000 people have drowned making the crossing.

And these numbers do not tell the whole story. There are credible reports of large numbers of African migrants dying in the Sahara before they even reach the Mediterranean coast.

The picture of three-year old Alan Kurdi from Syria, whose lifeless body was washed up on the shore of Bodrum in Turkey on 2 September galvanized global opinion. The overcrowded boat on which Alan and his family were trying to reach…

DNA Past and Present

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Kevin Sullivan considers how DNA identifications of high profile figures from the distant past may shed light on the potential for mass identification today

In 2012, archaeologists exhumed a human skeleton from a mediaeval grave that had been covered over by a municipal carpark in the English city of Leicester. DNA extracted from the skeleton was compared with DNA from a blood sample provided by a living descendant of King Richard III’s elder sister, Anne of York. This resulted in a perfect match, indicating that the skeleton belonged to Richard, the last Plantagenet King of England.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which (as every schoolchild once learned) was the dramatic event that “ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the Modern Era”. History has not been kind to the vanquished monarch. He was blamed…

Mexico’s Missing – One Year On


Bojana Djokanovic examines structural elements in Mexico’s missing persons pandemic

On 26 September 2015, exactly one year after 43 teacher trainees were abducted in the city of Iguala, in Mexico’s Guerrero state, families of the missing students staged demonstrations in Mexico City and elsewhere. The abduction and presumed murder of the students galvanized public opinion throughout Mexico and attracted worldwide media attention. Only two of the disappeared students are reported to have been identified (and only one of these identifications was definitive), while the location and…

ICMP Establishes Headquarters in The Hague


The Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, and the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, signed an Agreement in The Hague today establishing ICMP’s international headquarters in the Netherlands. The organization will be based in the City of The Hague.

The Host State Agreement with ICMP provides a strong basis for ICMP to enhance its cooperation with governments and others to address the global problem of missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters and other causes. In addition, ICMP’s new headquarters will allow it to work more closely with international courts to better secure the rights of survivors to truth and justice.

“The current migration crisis reminds us again of the importance of the work of ICMP,” Minister Koenders said at the signing ceremony. “Among the millions of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict or persecution, thousands go missing and among them…

Minister Reaffirms Commitment to Accounting for the Missing


BiH Minister for Human Rights and Refugees Semiha Borovac visited ICMP’s offices in Sarajevo and Tuzla on 23 September, including the Identification and Coordination Division (ICD) as well as the facilities of the Podrinje Identification Project (PIP). Minister Borovac was the first BiH Minister for Refugees to visit these facilities, dedicated to identification of missing persons in BiH and crucial to the process of addressing the issue of missing persons from the conflicts of the 199Os.

ICMP has worked closely with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to account for the over 30,000 people who were reported missing at the end of the war. Until now around 23,000 individuals – more than 70 percent of the total – have been identified. Almost 15,000 have been identified using DNA.

Minister Borovac said she wanted to see the ICD and PIP at first hand because…

ICMP Welcomes “Important Opportunity” to Account for Missing Persons in Sri Lanka

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ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger has welcomed this week’s announcement by the Sri Lankan government that it will establish “independent, credible and empowered mechanisms for truth seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence” in regard to war crimes, including enforced disappearances, perpetrated during the conflict that ended in 2009.

Among other things, the government proposes to establish a Commission for Truth, an Office on Missing Persons, and an Office for Reparations.

On Wednesday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for “a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” to examine crimes committed during the conflict in Sri Lanka.

“There is now an important opportunity for all stakeholders in Sri Lanka, together with constructive assistance from international partners, to address the issue of those who went  missing during the conflict,” Ms. Bomberger said. “The fact is that truth…