As many as 17,400 people are estimated to have gone missing during the civil conflict in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. The failure to account for the missing is a continuing obstacle to post-war reconciliation. It has also been a disruptive factor in relations between Lebanon and its neighbors.
Although some legislative and administrative steps have been taken in order to assist families of the missing, a broad-based, government-supported legal and social strategy has not been implemented, which means that only a very small number of missing persons have been located and identified.
Since 2008, through its collaboration with the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), ICMP has participated in activities related to addressing the issue of missing persons in Lebanon, including meeting civil society organizations, victims’ groups and decision makers in Beirut and hosting study visits to ICMP’s facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In June 2010, under the auspices of the ICTJ and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, ICMP hosted a visit for Lebanese parliamentarians, government representatives, and civil society representatives. The purpose was to examine ICMP’s unique DNA-led process of identification, and to learn about the social and political steps taken in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding identification of the missing.
Following discussions in Sarajevo, civil society representatives reiterated the need to address this issue in a serious and comprehensive manner in Lebanon and stressed that action is urgent since there is a growing risk that existing information will be lost. The NGO representatives suggested that ICMP provide assistance within the scope of a pilot project to collect relevant ante-mortem data on missing persons, including relatives’ genetic data, and to systematize data in an optimal way. The project has been refined and presented but has not yet been accepted by the authorities in Lebanon.
In November 2012 the Beirut-based UMAM Documentation and Research, and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience organized a roundtable to discuss sites of conscience relevant to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The conference, gathered together NGOs from around the region. It concluded with a resolution that the NGOs should form a MENA regional network that will document human rights violations and work on memory projects to support transitional justice.
The objective of this initiative is to help consolidate free, fair and democratic states in the region through managing memory. Building on the conference, ICMP has been able to develop an effective network of human rights-oriented NGOs throughout the MENA region, with which it can cooperate on research and advocacy efforts.