The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) facilitated the 5th meeting of the “Ship of Life” women’s network in Basra, Iraq, on 2 and 3 April, 2014. The meeting was attended by family representatives of missing persons from across Iraq who have lost their relatives as a result of human rights abuses in Iraq.
For the first time, women representing groups from different sectarian groups, including, Sunni Arab women from the troubled Anbar province attended the meeting. In addition, representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, the Martyrs’ Foundation, and the Kurdish Regional Government’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs attended the meeting. Observers from the Basra provincial council, and the Iraqi NGO directorate were in attendance, as was the archbishop of the Chaldean church in Southern Iraq, making this “Ship of Life” meeting the most representative so far of all the people of Iraq.
“The debate that the Iraqi women from across the country had in the past two days on the issue of missing persons can be seen as a positive step forwards for Iraq. The hundreds of thousands of missing persons in the country present a huge human rights and social welfare challenge which requires a common national approach. The joint work of Iraqi women in a non-political organization such as the Ship of Life will help all of them find common ground in their efforts to ensure that the fate of missing persons is resolved regardless of the sectarian or national origin of the person searched for,” said Duncan Spinner, Head of ICMP’s Iraq Program.
“It is anticipated that over time, this association will become part of a regional and global network of family advocates for the missing,” he added.
The association’s objectives are to ensure that Iraqi institutions engage in a credible, transparent, accountable and sustainable process to search for missing persons. These efforts will be achieved through educating local, national and international institutions and stakeholders regarding the critical need to resolve missing persons cases, as well as the need to address legal issues such as justice and restitution for survivor groups.
The Iraqi women who participated at the latest meeting presented the final statute that will be used to register the SoL as an NGO. In addition, the legally required logo was presented and selected. The SoL members agreed to publically announce the legal registration of the SoL after all legal procedures have been concluded and they drafted a timeline of their activities for the next 5 months, as well as outlining their training requirements.
The number of missing persons in Iraq ranges from 250,000 to over one million, according to different public sources in Iraq and includes persons missing as a consequence of human rights violations and other atrocities committed during the regime of Saddam Hussein, as well as years of armed conflict.
As part of its global mandate, ICMP works with civil society organizations, encourages public involvement in its activities, and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.