Building Domestic Capacity
Mechanisms to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in addressing the issue of missing persons vary depending on numerous factors, including:
- The nature and circumstances of the disappearances;
- The willingness of state authorities, or other relevant parties to address the issue;
- The domestic legal context;
- The engagement of families of the missing and other members of civil society; and
- Support from the international community.
Regardless of the circumstances under which a person goes missing, ICMP’s efforts in capacity building and the provision of assistance are aimed at creating law-based, sustainable structures that are transparent and accountable to stakeholders.
Conflict and Human Rights Abuses
When ICMP provides assistance to a government following armed conflict or human rights abuses, fostering political will to address the issue is often difficult.
ICMP’s efforts in post-conflict settings are geared towards ensuring that state authorities take responsibility for accounting for missing persons. The fundamental premise is that promoting state ownership will inculcate broader societal engagement and contribute to ending the cycle of violence and removing obstacles to future economic development.
ICMP’s approach in post-conflict settings, or where human rights abuses have occurred, includes the development of:
- State structures that demonstrate the willingness of a state to deal with past or on-going atrocities in a non-discriminatory, law-based manner;
- Purpose-specific legislation and legislative amendments, which include the provision of rights and protections for relatives of the missing;
- Specialized war crimes and human rights capacities to investigate and prosecute cases;
- Transparent, impartial and reliable information sharing mechanisms between authorities and families of the missing, and the public;
- The use of forensic evidence in criminal trials;
- The use of modern forensic methods to locate, recover and identify the missing; and
- The active engagement of families of the missing and society at large.
Examples of such assistance include the creation of:
- The Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
- The Libyan Identification Center;
- The Kosovo Commission on Missing Persons;
- The Law on Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
- The Law on the Protection of Mass Graves in Iraq; and
- Central Records of Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In cases where the issue is treated as a humanitarian concern, to the exclusion of rule of law processes, including criminal investigations and justice, ICMP’s overall objectives of ensuring the cooperation of governments and the building of domestic capacity may be compromised. Progress in these types of post-conflict scenarios is often impeded and societal benefits are limited by the absence of domestic ownership.
Natural and Manmade Disasters
When ICMP provides assistance following disasters, it either directly enters into agreements with the authorities, or provides assistance under cooperation agreements with other international organizations.
Examples of direct assistance to the authorities include ICMP’s cooperation with:
- The State of Louisiana in the United States following Hurricane Katrina;
- Thailand and the Maldives following the Southeast Asian Tsunami;
- Denmark where ICMP has a standing agreement to provide assistance in case of a disaster; and
- Canada following the Lac-Megantic train explosion in 2013.
Since 2007, ICMP and INTERPOL have worked together on the basis of a Cooperation Agreement on Disaster Victim Identification. The Agreement was invoked for the first time in 2008 to assist the Philippines following Typhoon Frank. Subsequently, ICMP also worked with INTERPOL in Kenya in 2013 following the Westgate shooting incident, and in the Philippines,following Typhoon Hiyan in 2013.
ICMP is exploring new avenues regarding how to use its experience to address the issue of persons missing as a result of other causes, such as refugee migration, displacement, and organized crime, including human trafficking and drug related violence. A recent Cooperation Agreement with the International Organization on Migration (IOM) concentrates on persons missing as a result of migration and displacement.