International Day of Missing Children

Missing Children

By Bojana Djokanovic

International Missing Children’s Day (IMCD), which is observed on 25 May, is dedicated to children who have gone missing, including those who have subsequently been found. The annual commemoration was initiated in 1983 by then US President Ronald Reagan as “National Missing Children’s Day”. This followed the 1979 disappearance of a six-year-old boy, Etan Patz, on his way to school in New York City, a case that generated widespread indignation, and concern for missing children throughout the US.

After the US began highlighting the issue in this way, other countries followed suit. In 2001, 25 May was formally recognized for the first time as International Missing Children’s Day, as a result of a joint effort by the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), Missing Children Europe and the European Commission.

Missing Children Europe, a European federation working…

Indonesia seeks to address legacy of 1965-66

Bojana Djokanovic examines the genesis of a new effort to address the legacy of hundreds of thousands of disappearances as a result of the events of 1965-66 in Indonesia.

In May 2016, at a meeting between the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and Asian ambassadors in The Hague, speakers stressed that armed conflict, migration, natural and manmade disasters and crime have all contributed to the missing persons challenge in Asia – the causes of the problem are diverse. The numbers of the missing are calculated in the hundreds of thousands, and in addition to families of the victims, the issue affects society as a whole.

In Indonesia the long process of consolidating democratic institutions and fostering open debate on social and political issues has until recently circumvented the question of mass killings that took place in…

Missing Persons: a Global Challenge


In May, the ICMP and the Embassy of the United Kingdom organized a seminar in The Hague to discuss the global challenge of missing persons. The participants included diplomats and representatives of international organizations, national and local authorities. As a result of migration, conflict and political instability, natural and man-made disasters and organized crime, an alarming number of people around the world go missing every day. Lack of political will, weakened rule – of- law institutions and alienated civil society in countries around the world leads these missing and disappeared to remain unaccounted for. For example, in the Philippines, there are still 2,000 missing after Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013; in Iraq the numbers are astounding – between 250,000 and a million remain missing; in Colombia the numbers are believed to be anywhere from 49,000 to 79,000; as a result of…

A Coherent and Coordinated International Response

Iawj 2

By Kathryne Bomberger,

On 27 May, I spoke at a plenary session of the 13th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ). The conference was hosted in Washington DC by the US National Association of Women Judges; it brought together 900 judges from 82 countries.

In discussion with participants I was struck by the very broad consensus that now exists concerning the need for a coherent and coordinated international response to the challenge of missing persons.

Due to the link to criminal activity surrounding the circumstance in which persons go missing in the context of armed conflict, human rights abuses, organized violence, including human trafficking, as well as forced migration, during the last 30 years there has been a decisive move to address the gaps in humanitarian law in addressing the issue of the missing by embracing a rule of law…

The Search for the Missing Must Continue

Photo 2

With more than 28,000 of the 40,000 persons who were missing at the end of the war accounted for, the countries of the Western Balkans have established a new and successful model for addressing the issue of missing persons, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today.

“The achievement in the Western Balkans has been remarkable,” Ms Bomberger said. “Few would have believed at the end of the war that so many of the missing could be located and identified. Because of this effort, tens of thousands of families have been able to end the agony of uncertainty and to assert their rights for truth and justice. But it should not be forgotten that 12,000 people have not yet been found, and work must continue at the present rate to account for those who are still missing.”

Ms Bomberger was speaking at the conclusion of…

More Bodies Found as a Result of Sensible Cooperation Among Agencies


The discovery of a mass grave in the Prijedor area this week is an example of what can be achieved when agencies coordinate their efforts and pool resources, Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, said today.

This is the first mass grave located as a result of information collected by the Operational Working Group on Missing Persons. The Working Group was established in December last year to investigate the most complex cases, focusing on sites that have been prioritized by MPI field offices in the search for remaining mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Working Group participants include the POBiH, MPI, SIPA, the RS Centre for Investigation of War Crimes, MUP, the US Embassy, ICTY, ICMP and ICRC.

“The grave, in Hozica Kamen South of Prijedor, was found through the joint work of investigators from the BIH Prosecutor’s Office (POBIH), the Missing…

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg recently ratified the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the ICMP

Luxembourg 2

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg recently ratified ( the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). The Agreement was signed by Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Belgium in December 2014 and entered into force in October last year. Following the original Signatories, Chile, Cyprus, El Salvador and Serbia signed the Agreement in 2015. ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger thanked the Luxembourg Ambassador to the Netherlands Pierre – Louis Lorenz for the generous financial and diplomatic support that Luxembourg has provided to ICMP over many years.

The missing in Asia


By Bert Segier

On 26 April, Sri Lankan Ambassador to The Netherlands A.M.J. Sadiq hosted a meeting of Asian Ambassadors in The Hague to discuss the issue of missing persons in Asia. Participants included the ambassadors of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Asian countries are faced with diverse causes of missing and disappeared persons, which include armed conflict, migration, natural disasters, manmade disasters and criminal acts. Numbers of the missing are calculated in hundreds of thousands – and the number of those who are left behind to search for the missing are much greater. Consequently, those affected by the issue are not just the direct victims themselves but their friends, family members and society at large.

At the April meeting in The Hague, the Sri Lankan Ambassador rightly stressed that “the issue of missing persons…

Scientists from Vietnam Complete Training at ICMP

Vietnam 1

By Lejla Softic

Two groups of three research scientists from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) successfully completed a three-week training program at ICMP’s facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in April.

The Hanoi Government estimates that more than 1.1 million North Vietnamese Army personnel and Viet Cong (pro-communist South Vietnamese irregulars) were killed or went missing in the 30 years of fighting before 1975. Around 300,000 are still missing. In addition, between 50,000 and 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians and between 195,000 and 430,000 South Vietnamese civilians died as a result of the conflict.

Although the United States has repatriated and identified most of its war dead, Vietnam has so far identified just a few hundred people, using outdated forensic techniques. Yet thousands of families are desperate to locate the remains of missing relatives.

The six Vietnamese scientists who have been trained at ICMP…

Accountability for the missing and disappeared in Guatemala


Guatemala 2

Bojana Djokanovic examines Guatemala’s 20-year effort to account for the missing from almost four decades of conflict

Guatemala is the most populous country in Latin America, with the highest birth rate and the highest population growth rate. Poverty is endemic and health and development challenges are severe. The indigenous population, mostly of Mayan descent, constitute 60 percent of the overall population, and continue to lag behind the non-indigenous population in social statistics: they are 2.8 times poorer and have 13 years’ less life expectancy; meanwhile, only 5 percent of university students are indigenous. Twenty-one different Maya groups live in Guatemala making up an estimated 51 % of the national population. A period of social and economic reform in the 1940s and 50s was followed by 36 years of internal conflict that began in 1960, pitting a right-wing regime against a…