Effective Tools to Account for the Missing

HM Queen Noor 1

Effective tools have been developed to address the global missing persons crisis created by natural disasters, conflict and migration, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan said on Monday during a presentation at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford.

“The issue of the missing is no longer being tackled solely as a humanitarian issue and by humanitarian actors, but as a public law issue to be addressed by public institutions including domestic courts, prosecutors and law enforcement,” Queen Noor said.

Describing the evolution of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which emerged from the post-war recovery process in the Western Balkans 20 years ago, she said ICMP could serve as a model for creating “a light but efficient modern international organization”.

ICMP cooperates with governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of conflicts, human rights…

Kosovo Forensic Agency Representatives Visit ICMP

Photo 1_KFA Representatives

Three senior representatives of the Kosovo Forensic Agency, Chief Executive Officer Blerim Olluri, Director of Serology and DNA Operations Sokol Dedaj, and Head of the DNA Laboratory Fatmir Ademi, visited ICMP’s facilities in Sarajevo today, where they were briefed by Head of the Western Balkans Program Matthew Holliday, and senior ICMP forensic sciences staff.

Today’s visit is part of a four-day fact-finding trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina which has included visits to ICMP’s Identification Coordination Division and the Podrinje Identification Project, both in Tuzla, and ICMP’s laboratory in Banja Luka. In October, ICMP technical staff visited the KFA in Prishtina to assess ways in which ICMP can provide technical assistance to the KFA.

The KFA is primarily a crime laboratory. It was established in 2003 and has received extensive support from the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program.

Blerim Olluri noted that while…

El Salvador Signs ICMP Treaty

 Photo Caption: ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger, El Salvador Ambassador to the Netherlands Aida Luz Santos de Escobar, and Head of the Treaties Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands  J. Damoiseaux at the Signing of the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP)


El Salvador today became the sixth country to sign the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). In December 2014, the Agreement was signed by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg. It recognizes ICMP as an international organization tasked with assisting countries in their efforts to address missing persons cases from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other causes.

Today’s signing ceremony will facilitate ICMP’s capacity to work with the authorities in El Salvador, where,…

Much Work Still to Be Done To Account for the Missing in the Western Balkans

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will endeavor to work in the Western Balkans as long as families of the missing and relevant institutions continue to request its assistance, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said in an interview published today in BH Dani. She pointed out that while more than 70 percent of the 40,000 people who went missing during the conflict have been accounted for, the fate of around 12,000 persons is still unknown, “which means that there is a lot of work still to be done.”

In December last year five governments signed an Agreement on ICMP, granting it a new status as an intergovernmental organization with a global mandate. The agreement stipulated that the organization would move its headquarters to The Hague, and this has now been done. However, a number of functions will remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina for several years. In addition, as long as…

Microsoft Supports ICMP

Microsoft logo

Microsoft Corporation has donated US$474,791 in software to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). This will allow ICMP to maintain and enhance its Identification Database Management System (IDMS) software and add efficiency to its global communications.

This is the fifth major donation by Microsoft to ICMP. It donated software in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 under its global “Unlimited Potential” initiative, which provides software support to non-profit organizations.

“ICMP operates a state-of-the-art iDMS and runs programs in many different parts of the world,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “Microsoft’s assistance has been and continues to be of paramount importance to us as we develop our human identification database and expand our communications network to manage projects separated by large distances.”

The iDMS is a specialized software solution developed by ICMP for managing large scale missing persons programs. It has a set of…

ICMP works with police DNA specialists from the Philippines

The Philippine National Police

Following meetings in Manila earlier this year between Philippine government officials and senior ICMP staff, two DNA scientists from the Philippine National Police (PNP) completed five weeks of training at ICMP’s facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in September and October.

The Philippines, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, suffers from devastating typhoons. Although its disaster-response capacity is substantial – Philippines medical teams were dispatched to Thailand and Indonesia to offer assistance in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami – identification of missing persons is complicated by administrative factors. Among other things, DNA evidence has not been fully integrated in the country’s judicial process, which means that a key element in an effective system of identifying missing persons – resolving legal status – is not yet in place.

“We are working case by case, but in a mass disaster situation you…

Under a Foreign Flag

Norway x

Rene Huel examines the forensic and ethical implications of a multi-generational missing persons case

During a two-day battle in July 1944, the Norwegian Ski Battalion (SS-Schijäger-Bataillon “Norge”) incurred heavy losses in the hills of Kaprolat and Hasselmann in the Karelia region (now in the Soviet Union). The troops were among about 15,000 Norwegians who volunteered for combat duty with the Wehrmacht during World War Two. It is estimated that 190 Norwegian soldiers took part in the Karelian battle: approximately 100 were killed, 40 were taken prisoner and 50 escaped. This was the largest loss of Norwegian soldiers in a single incident in the whole of the war. After 1945, soldiers who had fought on the German side were viewed as traitors: survivors faced the possibility of prosecution as collaborators.

When relatives of those who had gone missing in the Kaprolat and Hasselmann engagement…

ICMP Hague Meeting Explores Global Missing Persons Strategy



The first Conference of State Parties of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) was held on 29 October at the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in The Hague. The meeting, was chaired by a representative of the United Kingdom.

The CSP brings together countries that have signed the Agreement on the Status and Functions of ICMP: the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg signed the agreement in December 2014 and other countries, including El Salvador, are expected to sign in the near future. Representatives of El Salvador, Germany, the US, Interpol and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) attended the inaugural Conference as observers.

The CSP discussed ICMP’s plan of work through 2018.  Among key activities for the period, ICMP will host the first meeting in November of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Missing Persons, whose initial focus will…

Indonesia Confronts Half a Century of Silence on the Missing

Bali x

Bojana Dzokanovic and Kevin Sullivan explore the campaign to account for hundreds of thousands of victims buried in mass graves in Indonesia 50 years ago.

In early October, 77-year old Tom Iljas, an Indonesian who has spent decades living in Sweden, visited a site in Western Sumatra where he believed his father may have been buried. His father was one of the victims of the violent 1965-66 campaign against communists and communist sympathizers that is generally reckoned to have resulted in the killing of a least 500,000 people.

Mr Iljas was unable to explore the site, as he was arrested by police and then deported from Indonesia. His only offense was to look for his father’s grave.

In a related incident, also in October, editors of a student magazine at a well-known university in Central Java were questioned by police after they published an…

Nepalese Civil Society Pursues Resolution of the Country’s Missing Persons Issue

Nepal 4

By Bojana Djokanovic

Around 30 people are believed to have been subject to enforced disappearance in Nepal between 1960 and 1989 – but this number increased exponentially during the ten-year conflict between Maoist guerrillas and the government in Kathmandu. More than 10,000 people died in the 1996-2006 war and more than 1,300 were reported as missing.

The conflict was launched by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) after it was prevented from participating in a national election. Unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment were widespread and committed by both sides. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, up to 9,000 cases of serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law may have been committed, although there is a widely acknowledged…