The recent request by the State of Louisiana for the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to assist in the identification of Hurricane Katrina victims is the latest of many major developments for the organization in 2005. ICMP is now analyzing bone samples sent from the United States to obtain DNA profiles that will help to identify missing hurricane victims.This humanitarian assistance follows ICMP’s participation in the identification of victims of last year’s Indian Ocean tsunami. In May, ICMP was asked by the Government of Thailand to analyze bone samples of victims and to match the bone DNA profiles with profiles of family members of the missing. So far, ICMP has obtained DNA profiles for 1,634 of the 1,779 bone samples sent from Thailand and has found 691 DNA matches between victims of the tsunami and their family members.
Yet despite these developments in the area of humanitarian identification of disaster victims, ICMP has still produced record numbers of DNA identifications of victims of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. In just one day this month, ICMP achieved a record 60 DNA matches between the bones of victims and family members of the missing. In the months leading up to the tenth anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica, ICMP made record numbers of identifications so that some 600 Srebrenica victims could be buried at the memorial ceremony in July.
So far, ICMP has collected more than 77,400 blood samples of family members of missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, relating to more than 26,600 missing individuals. Of those, ICMP has found DNA matches for more than 8,800.
ICMP also established a new center in Lukavac, near Tuzla, this year. The Lukavac Re-association center, where separated and commingled skeletal remains are put back together using a streamlined DNA technique, started work in February and has made the process of identifying bodies and returning them to their families much more efficient.
One of the greatest political achievements this year at ICMP was the August inauguration of the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) at the State-level in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). The MPI was originally founded by ICMP in 2000, and the August event saw the BiH Council of Ministers become co-founders of the new State-level organization. The MPI is now in the process of taking over the work, responsibilities and staff of the two entity missing persons organizations. No longer will the search for the missing in Bosnia-Herzegovina be divided along ethnic lines.
ICMP brought together more than 100 representatives of associations of missing persons from across the region with Government representatives at its 8th Regional Networking Conference in Novi Sad in November. In Sarajevo in December, ICMP held a powerful International Conference on Models of Transitional Justice, where victim association representatives and experts from around the world compared notes on different approaches to achieving justice following conflict or widespread human rights abuses.
ICMP has also been helping the Government of Iraq to develop ways to address its enormous missing persons problem and has provided training this year at its facilities in BiH to many Iraqi professionals involved in the missing persons issue.