Ukraine’s Forgotten Missing and Disappeared

 

Since the spring of 2014 when conflict (“counter-terrorism”, as it is more often described by parties on both sides) began in Eastern Ukraine, thousands are believed to have gone missing as a result of refugee flight, fighting, reprisals and abductions. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, a marked deterioration in the human rights environment on the peninsula has been reported. Despite the “Minsk 2” agreement of February 2015, which provided for a ceasefire but which has never been fully implemented, human rights organizations and media continue to report widespread human rights abuses and casualties in Eastern Ukraine.

Since the spring of 2014 when conflict (“counter-terrorism”, as it is more often described by parties on both sides) began in Eastern Ukraine, thousands are believed to have gone missing as a result…

A Cornerstone of Peacemaking

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By Thomas Miller and Kathryne Bomberger

Today, the number of missing and disappeared persons (MDPs) around the world as a result of conflict and political unrest can be measured in millions. This means millions of families may never know the fate of a loved one. It means millions of reasons for fear, for anger, and for alienation.

From Sri Lanka to Mexico to Pakistan, addressing the issue of MDPs is a prerequisite for political and social recovery. Over the last two decades a new consensus has emerged that resolving this issue is a cornerstone of peacemaking.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), established in 1996 at the initiative of former President Bill Clinton to help the authorities in the Western Balkans account for 40,000 persons missing as a result of the Yugoslav conflict, is leading a concerted effort to turn this emerging international consensus…

Enforced Disappearances in China

Lejla Hodzic examines legal and extra-legal strategies adopted by the authorities in China in an apparent bid to stifle dissent.

When the Chinese authorities arrested or detained more than 280 lawyers and activists in July 2015, the move was viewed as an explicit crackdown on human rights. Not only were detainees prevented from practicing law – and therefore prevented from pursuing human rights cases through legal channels – they were held in conditions that are tantamount to enforced disappearance.

Regularizing the conditions of detention for some, in January this year the Chinese authorities raised formal charges against seven lawyers who had been held in secret detention.

Consistent with a systematic effort to maintain legality while restricting the scope for human rights advocacy by members of the legal profession, the authorities recently amended…

Human Rights in Nigeria – Chibok Abductions and Disappearances

 

Bojana Djokanovic examines the challenge to Nigerian society posed by mass abductions by insurgent groups and military counter-terrorism operations in the northeast of the country.

Nearly two years since the abduction of about 270 girls from Chibok, Borno State, northeast Nigeria, in April 2014 by Boko Haram, the whereabouts of more than 200 of these girls remains unknown. Boko Haram has waged a six-year insurgency to establish an Islamist state in the northeast of Africa’s biggest economy and pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2015. The Chibok kidnapping sparked an international social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, which has included participation by Nigerian citizens and activists and by international celebrities and politicians. The campaign has amplified awareness of Boko Haram kidnappings of young women and made this one of the most known…

The Tragedy of Missing Young People and Children

 

The Mediterranean “refugee and migrant crisis” has led to an increasing number of children and minors going missing on dangerous routes to safety and a better life. At the end of January, EUROPOL Chief of Staff Brian Donald told The Observer newspaper that more than 10,000 children and unaccompanied minors may have gone missing since the start of the crisis. The authorities believe some of these unaccounted for children may be victims of trafficking, slavery, sexual exploitation and other criminal activities. These include children who have begun their journeys unaccompanied, or whose parents or guardians died along the way, or who were forcibly taken from their parents on the migrant and refugee route.

While as many as 5,000 children may have disappeared in Italy alone, the Council of Europe has…

A Cornerstone of Peacebuilding – Addressing the Issue of Missing and Disappeared Persons

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The cross-cutting global challenge of accounting for missing and disappeared persons can be addressed effectively through a coherent international policy, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told at briefing for senior diplomats at the United Nations in New York today.

The issue of missing persons and enforced disappearances is linked to international peace and security, he said. “Appropriate legislation and adequate frameworks are needed for processes to account for the missing. Mechanisms to clarify the fate of missing persons need to be transparent and depoliticised, and the needs of the missing should be at the center of any action, including families of the missing.”

The briefing on accounting for missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migration and other involuntary causes was organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons and hosted by the United Kingdom Mission…

Czech Republic Donation to ICMP

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The Czech Republic has donated 15,000 Euros to support ICMP’s Western Balkans program. The donation was confirmed by Czech Ambassador Jakub Skalnik during a meeting this morning with the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans program, Matthew Holliday.

“This contribution will have a practical impact on our work, as activities within ICMP’s Western Balkans program, including civil society engagement, forensic operations and DNA testing and matching, are scheduled through 2019 and securing funding for these activities is essential,” Matthew Holliday said.

Ambassador Skalnik described the donation as “an expression of the Czech Republic’s continued commitment to the work of accounting for the missing from the conflict in the Western Balkans and the solidarity of the people of the Czech Republic with the people of the region.”

ICMP Newsletter: Missing Persons Issues in 2015

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ICMP’s January newsletter reported on an initiative designed to promote dialogue on the missing persons process in the Western Balkans and the role of families in this process. Activities included innovative workshops that explored ways of articulating, sharing and coming to terms with key issues. Objectives included building empathy between young people and older family members through personal narratives; helping participants to understand how the missing persons issue affects different generations in different ways; encouraging older family members to identify positive forces that can help take the missing persons process forward; and fostering dialogue between young people and older family members.

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The February issue examined gender roles in conflict, starting out with the observation that in order to achieve lasting peace, it is imperative that women become active participants in decision-making. The experiences of women in dealing with war – and…

Signatories to the Agreement on ICMP’s Status and Functions

 

Ambassador María Teresa Infante of the Republic of Chile, Ambassador Elpidoforos Economou of the Republic of Cyprus, and ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger at the signing of the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons, The Hague, 14 December 2005.

One year after the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg signed the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), three more countries – Cyprus, Chile and Serbia – signed the Treaty in December 2015. El Salvador had become a signatory in November.

The Agreement 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.

By becoming signatories, countries declare their commitment to dealing with the issue of missing persons, and this…

More remains can be found; More identifications can be made

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By Kathryne Bomberger,

Two events in the first half of December helped to put the issue of missing persons back at the top of the policy agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The first was a call by families of the missing, through the Regional Coordination of associations of families of Missing Persons, meeting in Sarajevo, for the authorities to maintain their support for the process of reviewing unidentified remains stored in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mortuaries.

Everyone present at the meeting, including 16 of the most active BIH associations of families of the missing, prosecutors from all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) Board of Directors, agreed that the issue of possible misidentifications made prior to the introduction of DNA testing must be addressed through mass collection of reference samples. The next step, which also had unanimous support, is to develop…