ICMP to Assist in Identification of Missing Children from El Salvador

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will work together with the Human Rights Center (HRC) at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the Salvadorian non-governmental organization Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos (ProSearch of Missing Children) of El Salvador to provide assistance with DNA testing, kinship analysis and database design for the identification of missing children from El Salvador.

During the conflict in El Salvador between 1980 and 1992, an estimated 8,000 people went missing, according to unofficial sources. A significant number of those individuals were children, many thought to still be alive, who were adopted by families both in El Salvador as well as in the US and Europe, often through irregular adoption procedures. Several organizations have been created to address the problem of missing persons in El Salvador, including Pro-Búsqueda, which was created in 1994, whose mission it is to search for children who disappeared as a result of El Salvador’s armed conflict.

ICMP’s provision of assistance to Pro-Búsqueda follows in the wake of a multidisciplinary workshop that was organized in Sarajevo in May 2012 by the three collaborating organizations for a delegation of nine representatives from El Salvador. These delegates included representatives from diverse state institutions and NGOs. Participants met in Bosnia and Herzegovina with experts from different fields relevant to the search and identification of missing persons; representatives from the Bosnian state-level body responsible for the search for missing persons—the Missing Persons Institute (MPI)—and families of the missing.

“Pro-Búsqueda is most fortunate to have a sister agency such as ICMP for advice and guidance on technical and ethical matters regarding human identification. Its vast experience in locating and identifying persons missing as a consequence of armed conflicts will be invaluable to Pro-Búsqueda. Our organization lists more than 500 missing children from the Civil War (1980-1992) yet to be found”, said Patricia Vásquez Marías, the head geneticist at the Pro-Búsqueda Association.

ICMP seeks to secure co-operation between governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other hostilities and violations of human rights, and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations and encourages public involvement in its activities. ICMP pioneered the use of DNA technology to identify large numbers of missing people. Over the past 16 years, ICMP has employed scientific DNA to help identify approximately 18,000 persons. ICMP has provided assistance to Chile, Libya, South Africa, Colombia, the United States of America, the Philippines, Thailand, Germany and Norway.