ICMP urges Libyan authorities to design mechanisms to address the issue of missing persons in accordance with international human rights and rule of law norms

Article posted on September 30, 2011

In light of recent developments in Libya, the International Commission on Missing Persons calls on Libyan authorities to design mechanisms to address the issue of missing persons in accordance with international norms. Accordingly, ICMP notes that the state has the obligation to document cases of enforced disappearance, recover and identify mortal remains, and return them to families for a dignified burial.

Considering States’ obligations stemming from principles embraced by instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Charter of the United Nations, International Covenants and other instruments safeguarding the dignity and human rights of all persons, ICMP urges the immediate creation of institutions to address the missing persons issue in Libya.

Numerous persons have been reported as missing since the start of the uprising in February 2011. In addition, there are reports of missing persons from the Gaddafi era which need to be investigated. According to reports, mass graves from this period have already been located in Libya and ICMP urges Libyan authorities to prevent any haphazard or non-expert excavations and to ensure reliability of evidence collection and proper documentation of sites, remains and associated artifacts. Proper recovery of mortal remains from mass graves can be crucial in reconstructing the crimes and bringing crime perpetrators to justice.

ICMP notes that the failure to provide answers on the fate and whereabouts of missing persons to their families constitutes a continuing human rights violation in need of redress through efficient, reliable and transparent processes.

Libya is not currently a party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and ICMP urges Libyan authorities to launch activities which will lead to the ratification of the convention.

ICMP calls on government authorities to ensure that the rights of family members of the missing are upheld at all times, and that survivors and civil society alike have access to information regarding the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, as well as the circumstances of their disappearance.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) urges the Transitional National Council (TNC) to make the issue of missing persons a priority and take the following steps:

• Take measures toward signing and ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
• Draft domestic legislation in the form of a Law on Missing Persons to regulate the issue of missing persons.
• Create a Missing Persons Central Records to register all missing persons in a systematic manner.
• Secure crime scenes and related evidence which may be crucial to resolving missing persons cases and to bringing perpetrators to justice.
• Locate, recover, examine and identify the missing by methods that are accurate, professional, reliable and commensurate with standards of justice, including those of criminal justice. DNA-based identification is considered the most accurate method in accounting for large numbers of missing persons.
• Return identified mortal remains to their families for a dignified burial.
• Issue appropriate credentials to family members of the missing to enable them to receive state sponsored benefits and reparations.
• Issue accurate numbers of war casualties so that inflated estimates will not be manipulated for political purposes.

As part of its mandate, ICMP seeks to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other hostilities or violations of human rights and to assist them in doing so.

ICMP’s worldwide operations include the provision of assistance to the governments of the Western Balkans, Iraq, the Philippines, Chile and Colombia, as well as assistance to Kuwait, Norway, Thailand and South Africa. ICMP is currently headquartered in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.