Remembering the Missing from Conflict, Human Rights Violations and Other Causes

Article posted on August 29, 2012

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, 30th August, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) would like to recall the commitment of states under international law, including the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons. Furthermore, ICMP would like to underscore that the families have a right to information regarding a missing relative regardless of the circumstances of their disappearance.

ICMP estimates that there are currently over a million reported cases of persons missing from wars and violations of human rights around the world. Furthermore at least a thousand persons go missing every year as a consequence of migration, displacement, human trafficking, organized crime and other causes and about 150,000 persons are missing every year from natural or manmade disasters.

“The issue of missing persons is clearly a global one that requires an adherence to international laws, as well as the sustained commitment of the international community to maintain efforts to respond to countries in need and the assurance that afflicted states will address missing persons cases in a manner that respects the rule of law and the rights of victims,” said Kathryne Bomberger, Director-General of the ICMP.

“The experience in the Western Balkans, for example, demonstrates that missing persons can be found when political will exists. Of the 40,000 persons who went missing during the conflicts that took place in the former Yugoslavia, an unprecedented 70 percent of those missing have been accounted for,” she added. “While the effort to find missing persons from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia had shortcomings in the beginning, the reason it has been successful to date has to do with the unrelenting efforts of the families of the missing, combined with an adherence to a rule of law approach, the concerted engagement of the international community and the political will of the states involved to search for persons in a non-discriminatory manner,” she stated.

Tomorrow, families from around the world will remember their missing loved ones. Hundreds of thousands of families in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Cyprus, Iraq, Spain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Nepal, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Algeria, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Yemen, Somalia, South Africa and many other countries still live in a state of uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones.

“The International Commission on Missing Persons joins the families of the missing around the world in remembering their loved ones who went missing from armed conflicts, human rights abuses and other causes,” said ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger on this occasion.

The initiative to commemorate the 30th August as the International Day of the Disappeared was taken by the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, which was founded in 1981 in Costa Rica and has since been recognized globally.

This year, with the support of ICMP, families from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia regardless of their ethnicity or religion will jointly mark this important day at a commemorative event organized in Belgrade, Serbia. ICMP is also supporting families and youth activists to mark the International Day of the Disappeared in Pristina, Kosovo, in Vinkovci, Croatia, and in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

ICMP was created in 1996, following the G-7 Summit in Lyon, France. It 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. It is the only organization in the world that has been developed with a sole objective to address the issue of missing persons. ICMP maintains the highest throughput laboratory system in the world for DNA identification and has so far made positive DNA identifications of more than 18,000 missing persons.