ICMP to Help Investigation of Mass Graves in Iraq

Article posted on November 5, 2004

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) announced Friday it will assist Iraq in its efforts to address the issue of missing persons. The ICMP will donate access to its highly sophisticated forensic Data Management System (fDMS), a unique electronic database that tracks the process of exhumations and identifications from site reconnaissance and exhumation to identification of remains, notification of family members and final burial.There are believed to be between 300,000 and one million missing persons in Iraq following the regime of Saddam Hussein. Most of the missing are believed to be buried in mass graves and several mass grave sites have already been excavated.

“Resolving the fate of missing persons is a crucial element in providing justice for family members and in allowing any reconciliation process to move forward. The authorities in Iraq recognize that unless these mass graves are properly investigated, they could pose a serious threat to social cohesion for generations to come,” said Kathryine Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff.

“One of the biggest difficulties at the moment is how to handle and centralize all the forensic information the Iraqi authorities are getting from these mass grave sites. Giving them access to the fDMS will make managing that data dramatically more efficient and will make a huge difference in the identification of missing persons,” she added.

ICMP has become widely known for its remarkable results in the identification of missing persons through DNA profiling and it is the only organization in the world using DNA to match thousands of bone samples from missing persons with blood samples from family members. However, DNA profiling is just one of the many tools the ICMP uses to investigate the fate of the missing and a system such as the fDMS can be invaluable in tracking forensic data.

The first agreement between ICMP and the Iraqi authorities has been signed with the Kurdish Regional Government. Further discussions are underway with Iraqi authorities that could enable ICMP to assist in addressing the missing persons issue in a comprehensive manner.