International Commission for Missing Persons opens permanent headquarters

The International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) is the latest international organisation to set up permanent offices in The Hague. Foreign minister Bert Koenders opened its new headquarters at Koninginnegracht 12 during ICMP’s 20th anniversary celebration on Thursday.

ICMP supports efforts to trace and identify people who have gone missing as a result of armed conflict, human rights abuses, migration, organised crime and natural disasters. The Commission was established in 1996 after the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Dayton Accords) took effect. After the Yugoslav wars, ICMP played a key role in helping account for thousands of missing persons, including in Srebrenica. The Netherlands is supporting ICMP’s efforts to find and identify the last one thousand people from Srebrenica who are still unaccounted for.

Today, ICMP is active worldwide. In 2014 the Commission acquired the status of a treaty-based intergovernmental organisation and the decision was made to set up its headquarters in The Hague.

'Everyone has the right to know where their family members and loved ones are. When people are “disappeared” by the state or go missing due to human trafficking or kidnapping these are serious human rights violations’, said Mr Koenders at the opening. ‘ICMP’s efforts to find and identify missing persons are vital for their families. This can bring an end to the torment of uncertainty. The evidence that is uncovered about missing people who have been killed can also be used in trials, giving their families a chance to see justice done. ICMP is an important new resource in The Hague, the international city of peace and justice.’

Millions of people are currently fleeing from conflict zones and many go missing. Children are especially vulnerable. With the recent flows of refugees from Syria, many people have become separated from their family members. The Netherlands is exploring options for working with ICMP to identify Syrian refugees who have gone missing.

ICMP’s actual move from Sarajevo to The Hague took place in 2015. The Netherlands has supported its work from the start in many ways, most recently by providing some of the Dutch Design furniture from the EU Presidency to furnish ICMP’s new offices.