International Commission on Missing Persons to be based in The Hague

Foreign minister Bert Koenders signed an agreement today establishing the headquarters of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in The Hague. Mr Koenders had previously called for the Commission to be based there. ‘I’m glad this organisation is coming to the Netherlands,’ the minister said. ‘It will be a great asset for The Hague, the legal capital of the world, and for the Netherlands.’

ICMP was established by the United States in 1996 after the entry into force of the Dayton Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission made a major contribution to tracing missing persons in the aftermath of the war in the Balkans, in Srebenica and elsewhere.

‘The current migration crisis reminds us again of the importance of the work of ICMP,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘Of the millions of people fleeing conflict or persecution, thousands go missing. The tragedies on our borders illustrate this only too well. Among the refugees are many vulnerable groups, including children. The Netherlands has supported ICMP since it was first established in the aftermath of the conflict in former Yugoslavia. Since then, ICMP has successfully assisted many countries around the world. Dutch support has helped it evolve into an organisation with a global role and a global mandate.’

ICMP now operates all over the world. In 2014 it was recognised as an intergovernmental organisation, and it was agreed that its headquarters would be in The Hague. The Netherlands has financially and politically supported the Commission’s work from the outset. Former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok has been one of its moving spirits.

Until now, the Commission was based in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. It works with governments and other stakeholders in areas hit by conflicts, natural disasters or other humanitarian crises. ICMP employs 140 people around the world. It cooperates in the Netherlands with the Netherlands Forensic Institute.

The Commission has not yet found suitable permanent premises in The Hague, but will for the interim operate from temporary office space. Besides setting up offices in The Hague, it plans to build a laboratory for DNA testing.