ICMP Hague Meeting: Enhances Global Missing Persons Strategy


The first Conference of State Parties of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) was held today 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 today’s Conference as observers.

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

Colombia: Effective Missing Persons Process

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Sunday’s provincial and municipal polls in Colombia were hailed as possibly the country’s “last war-time elections”, since the Government and the FARC guerrilla movement achieved a breakthrough in peace negotiations in Havana last month, committing themselves to conclude a final peace agreement by March 2016.

On 17 October the two sides agreed to create a special unit to search for the missing when the final peace agreement is signed.

ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today that concrete progress towards peace has opened the door to tackling one of the major issues created by half a century of conflict.

“Colombia is facing an enormous challenge in addressing the issue of missing persons. The numbers are vast and the political and legal hurdles will be numerous.  However, successfully locating and identifying the missing is a necessary step to upholding the law, including ensuring that families are…

NFI and ICMP to Collaborate on Global Missing Persons Challenge

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The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will make it possible for the two organizations to collaborate more closely.

Under the agreement, which was signed by Director-General of  the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice Gerard Roes and ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger, the two organizations will cooperate on joint project proposals, provide mutual support in field operations and collaborate on rule-of-law programs that require forensic expertise and training. This builds on a strong relationship that has been developed over a period of years.

“ICMP is a very experienced institution with an outstanding reputation,” said Kees Möhring, NFI Director of External Relations. “It is a specialist in using DNA methods for identification. DNA is also a specialty of the NFI, both for identification purposes and forensic purposes. Combining the skills and expertise…

Nepal Needs Holistic Approach to Missing Persons Issue

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Members of the Common Platform, a coalition of family members and groups representing victims of the 1996-2006 conflict in Nepal, have highlighted the challenge of accounting for the 1,300 people still missing from the decade-long conflict in Nepal.

Thirteen members of the Common Platform visited ICMP’s offices in Sarajevo this week, where they toured the DNA laboratory, and were briefed on ICMP’s operations around the globe before meeting members of the Regional Coordination, an organization that groups together associations of families of the missing from former Yugoslavia.

The visitors highlighted the challenges facing those who are seeking to account for the missing in Nepal, which include rugged terrain and the relative inaccessibility of many parts of the country.

Thousands of people were victims of enforced disappearance during the conflict between Maoist insurgents and the Royalist government. The conflict ended with a peace agreement that…

Roadmap on Long-Term Missing Persons Program in Albania

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A delegation from the Albanian Government completed a three-day study trip to ICMP’s offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina today. In April, ICMP staff held talks with officials in Tirana following a government invitation to visit the country. ICMP and the relevant institutions in Albania are now developing a roadmap to address the issue of around 6,000 people believed to have gone missing as a result of political persecution between 1944 and 1991.

The Albanian delegation, comprising Ermira Shtino of the Directorate for Policy for the formerly-Persecuted, Laura Saro of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, Orkid Spahiu of the Institute for the Integration of Politically Persecuted Persons, and Refik Golli of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited ICMP’s laboratories in Sarajevo and Tuzla as well as the Podrinje Identification Project in Tuzla; they were briefed on all aspects of ICMP programs…

Accounting for the missing in Sri Lanka


Six years after the end of what is generally regarded as the longest armed conflict in Asia, relatives still search for answers about the whereabouts of their missing family members. The precise number of persons who are missing as a result of the Sri Lankan conflict remains a matter of dispute. Media reports highlight the discrepancies between numbers given by government and non-government agencies and numbers based on cases reported by families searching for their relatives.  The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 5,671 reported cases of wartime-related disappearance in Sri…

ICMP Director Wins Prestigious International Science Award


In September, the Director of ICMP’s Forensic Science Department, Dr Thomas Parsons, was awarded the 2015 Scientific Prize by the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG). Dr Parsons is only the tenth person since 1987 to receive the award for outstanding scientific work in the field of forensic genetics, which is presented at two-year intervals but only when it is deemed that there is a recipient who merits the accolade.

Dr Parsons was honored for his signal contribution to genetic science, including his formulation of “the most efficient protocols and interpretation guidelines” for analyzing mitochondrial DNA and maximizing yields when extracting DNA from old and/or degraded bone samples – two of the key elements in human remains identification. The Prize cites Dr. Parsons’ “work in human mitochondrial DNA analysis and the identification of victims of war and disaster.”

Presenting the award at the ISFG’s…

A Contribution to Addressing the Migration and Refugees Crisis


By the end of September half a million people had crossed the Mediterranean in 2015, well over double the figure for the whole of 2014.

Almost 3,000 people have drowned making the crossing.

And these numbers do not tell the whole story. There are credible reports of large numbers of African migrants dying in the Sahara before they even reach the Mediterranean coast.

The picture of three-year old Alan Kurdi from Syria, whose lifeless body was washed up on the shore of Bodrum in Turkey on 2 September galvanized global opinion. The overcrowded boat on which Alan and his family were trying to reach…

DNA Past and Present

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Kevin Sullivan considers how DNA identifications of high profile figures from the distant past may shed light on the potential for mass identification today

In 2012, archaeologists exhumed a human skeleton from a mediaeval grave that had been covered over by a municipal carpark in the English city of Leicester. DNA extracted from the skeleton was compared with DNA from a blood sample provided by a living descendant of King Richard III’s elder sister, Anne of York. This resulted in a perfect match, indicating that the skeleton belonged to Richard, the last Plantagenet King of England.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which (as every schoolchild once learned) was the dramatic event that “ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the Modern Era”. History has not been kind to the vanquished monarch. He was blamed…

Mexico’s Missing – One Year On


Bojana Djokanovic examines structural elements in Mexico’s missing persons pandemic

On 26 September 2015, exactly one year after 43 teacher trainees were abducted in the city of Iguala, in Mexico’s Guerrero state, families of the missing students staged demonstrations in Mexico City and elsewhere. The abduction and presumed murder of the students galvanized public opinion throughout Mexico and attracted worldwide media attention. Only two of the disappeared students are reported to have been identified (and only one of these identifications was definitive), while the location and…