Canada Joins ICMP Donors

Article posted on February 9, 2006

The Government of Canada today joins the donor nations of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), making a contribution of 350,000 Canadian Dollars from Canada’s Global Peace and Security Fund for ICMP’s identification of missing individuals from the conflicts in the regions of the former Yugoslavia.Today, in recognition of Canada’s contribution, Canadian Ambassador Shelley Whiting toured the ICMP facilities in Tuzla. Given the regional focus of ICMP activities, and the relevance of their work in the neighboring countries of Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro, she was joined by her colleagues, Mr. Yvan Jobin, Deputy Head of Mission at the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade, and Mr. Sven Jurschewsky, Deputy Head of Mission at the Canadian Embassy in Zagreb.

In Tuzla, Ambassador Whiting stated, “Canada is pleased to support financially the work of the ICMP, which facilitates their ongoing efforts to identify victims of the conflicts in the region, and provides closure to their families. By identifying the fate of the missing, we can help the people of this region to confront issues from the past, and move toward a brighter future.”

The contribution will support the work of ICMP’s Identification Coordination Center (ICD), based in Tuzla, in eastern Bosnia, where ICMP’s DNA profile databases of missing persons and family members of the missing are compared to find matches that will identify victims. ICMP analyzes bone samples of victims and blood samples of family members of missing persons to obtain DNA profiles for identification.

ICMP was originally established in 1996 to help the governments of the former Yugoslavia address their missing persons issue. In early 2000 ICMP pioneered the use of DNA as a means to identify large numbers of missing persons, developing expertise in the difficult process of obtaining DNA profiles from bones, and sophisticated databases of DNA profiles, as well as matching software that can find family links between the databases.

The ICD is the main centre for DNA matching at ICMP. ICMP teams of outreach workers are also based here, contacting family members of the former Yugoslavia who have not yet given blood samples and recording all information about family members who are searching for a missing relative. All family members’ blood samples are stored at the ICD, and all bone samples that will go to the ICMP’s DNA labs also enter the system there.

All samples, either from family members or mortal remains from grave sites are bar-coded at the ICD to ensure scientific accuracy and impartiality, which is especially important in the former Yugoslavia, where ethnicity of the missing is still a politically-charged issue.

Every day, new matches are found between family members and victims at the ICD in Tuzla. To date, of the more than 26,000 missing persons of ICMP’s database of the missing, for whom family members have donated blood samples, ICMP has found DNA matches for 9,115. In May 2005, ICMP also started to analyze bone samples and match DNA profiles of tsunami victims, and in December 2005, the ICMP began to assist in the identification of Hurricane Katrina victims.