A high-level delegation of 8 Iraqi experts working on the issue of missing persons in Iraq visited the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) at its headquarters in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 4thth to 9th October, 2009. The visit was funded by the British Government through its Embassy in Baghdad.The Iraqi delegation received in-depth presentations and demonstrations of ICMP experiences and expertise in strengthening and enhancing the technical means to locate, recover and identify missing persons. In addition to visiting ICMP’s forensic facilities in Tuzla, the delegation observed at first-hand the exhumation of a mass-grave site at Bisina in north-eastern Bosnia and visited the Potocari Memorial Centre outside Srebrenica.
“Having seen the work and operations of ICMP here in Bosnia, and knowing of their experience and expertise in working with missing persons, we feel confident that what they are doing in Bosnia could be replicated in Iraq, thus helping to bring some resolution to our massive problem of missing persons,” stated Mr. Ezzat Mohammed Sulaiman, from the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs of the Kurdistan Region. The rest of the delegation agreed unanimously.
The delegation consisted of representatives from the Iraq Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs of the Kurdistan Region, the Medico-Legal Institute of Iraq’s Ministry of Health and university academics. Estimates of the number of missing in Iraq range between 250,000 and 1.5 million, while the General Director of the Medico-Legal Institute uses a working figure of 360,000 missing persons. These persons are missing as a result of crimes committed under the regime of Saddam Hussein, as well as persons who went missing during and after the First Gulf War, the Iran-Iraq War and since 2003.
Despite on-going problems and security concerns, the Iraqi Government has taken important steps to address the issue of missing persons. These include passing a Law on the Protection of Mass Graves and taking steps to develop a national strategy for the issue. ICMP has provided assistance to the Iraqi Government through the Ministry for Human Rights since 2004 to address the problem of missing persons. This is the sixth visit of an Iraqi delegation to ICMP since 2004.
ICMP opened an office in Baghdad in 2008 to provide training to staff members of the MLI and the Ministry for Human Rights in best practice techniques for the excavation of mass graves.
ICMP endeavors 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 governments or authorities in doing so.
ICMP’s programs in Iraq are funded by the US and German governments and the Iraq Trust Fund administered by the United Nations. Contributions have also been received from Denmark and the United Kingdom.