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International Commission on Misssing Persons (icmp)
Activities and Programs

-Tachnical Assistance
A)Forensic archeology and anthropology
Through its assistance in excavations and examinations ICMP contributes to the detection of sites, the recovery and anthropological examination of mortal remains and the use of antemortem and postmortem records for forensic identification.
The bodies of missing persons are frequently located in mass graves and other sites reported by survivors or other witnesses. A number of methods can help pinpoint these sites, including satellite imagery, geophysical survey and spectral analysis measuring changes in the spectral signature of an area under investigation. These methods are non-invasive and do not involve disturbing the mortal remains.
By offering support for excavations and examinations ICMP is able to help national  authorities, including pathologists, courts and other local mechanisms, to reinforce the rigor and reliability of evidence collection and documentation of sites, remains and associated artifacts. This support can involve site reconnaissance, locating the grave and defining its boundaries, stratigraphic excavation to the original sides and bottom of the grave, allowing for all features, bodies and evidence to be documented with 3-dimensional digital mapping techniques, body recovery, and maintenance of evidence logs. Anthropological evaluation is necessary to retain articulated or clearly associated skeletal elements. These activities include training and capacity building.

B)DNA
Until recently, identification of the remains of missing persons was largely based on methods such as comparing ante-mortem and post-mortem information, including age and stature, combined with evidence of clothing or personal items found with the victims. In some cases, these methods may be complemented by the use of fingerprint technology and the analysis of dental records.

Today, identification of the remains of large numbers of missing persons is best performed via DNA analysis, preferably in conjunction with other available records as defined above. This method is objective, scientifically accurate and cost effective. Typically, DNA-based identifications of large numbers of missing persons involve DNA screening of family members and a comparison of their DNA with that obtained from the recovered remains of the missing. The process relies on the participation of relatives of the missing, as well as that of the courts and other local authorities.

The ICMP DNA laboratory system consists of two facilities, which operate under a well established quality management system and are accredited by an internationally recognized accreditation body. The DNA laboratories daily perform 105 DNA extractions, usually from bone or tooth samples taken from the mortal remains of missing persons. DNA extraction of bone uses a specially adapted “silica-binding” method with a high success rate for nuclear DNA short tandem repeats (STRs) that are commonly used for forensic DNA profiling. The DNA extracts are then quantified to determine the amount of usable DNA recovered. Often only small numbers of surviving DNA molecules are recovered (and in some cases the samples contain no usable DNA). Because the samples often contain only trace amounts of DNA, processing requires the utmost care and expertise to exclude contaminating DNA from sources other than the samples themselves. The STR DNA profiles are obtained from the DNA extracts via Polymerase Chain Reaction amplification using the Promega PowerPlex 16 (PP16) kit, or an ICMP-developed “mini-amplicon” STR kit for highly degraded samples. The Applied BioSystems IdentiFiler kit can also be used. The DNA of family members is usually obtained from blood samples, and is processed in a high-throughput mode that has generated nearly 90,000 family reference profiles to date.

The DNA profiles of missing persons and those of family members are compared as part of an identification coordination process for the purpose of making kinship-based identifications. ICMP uses a custom matching program that searches for direct matching, half allele share that is required for a parent-child relationship, as well as sibling indices, and is generally indicative of genetic relatedness. Final kinship statistics are generated using the software program DNAView.

DNA Match Reports are issued for those matches with a statistical significance of 99.95% or greater, with prior probability very generally calculated as the number of missing from a particular region.

C)Forensic Science Database Management System
A challenge in the forensic science of human identification is management of large amounts of data of many kinds. In order to handle effectively all the information generated, from grave site recovery to final DNA identification, ICMP has designed an integrated Forensic Database Management System (fDMS). This central, interdisciplinary and searchable database links all information related to: field (grave) site reconnaissance, excavation, evidence and remains recovery, missing persons data, family reference data, skeletal inventory, mortuary and anthropological examination, DNA laboratory processes, DNA profiles, DNA matching of bone profiles to family references, and match report generation. Components of the fDMS will be made available to governments and other authorities. Plans are already   underway to donate components of the software to the Missing Persons Institute in Bosnia and Herzegovina to help them create a state-level central record of missing persons.                                                                                                                 

 -Capacity Building
A)Institution Building
ICMP cooperates with governments to help them develop the institutional capacity they need in order to meet their obligations regarding missing persons.
Building functional institutions is an integral part of post-conflict recovery. It takes place at many levels and involves establishing professional structures and training personnel to work effectively within these structures. As part of its broad effort to support institution building, ICMP provides support for specialized agencies dealing with missing persons, and has acted as a founding partner in some of these agencies. Furthermore, ICMP provides training for local police, crime-scene officers, investigators and prosecutors involved in the process.
B)Legislative support
Providing effective support to legislators is an important aspect of building institutional capacity; it also helps address criminal and civil legal challenges created by the legacy of large numbers of missing persons, for example issues related to marital status, property rights, and inheritance. In addition, this support helps to deepen understanding of the proper role of legislation in addressing the issue of missing persons, which has a direct bearing on truth and reconciliation as well as on other transition objectivesMonitoring
In addition to providing technical assistance to help governments meet their obligations to address the issue of persons missing from armed conflict, ICMP monitors and reports on their activities. Monitoring excavations and exhumations in the field helps ensure that the process is objective and transparent, that records are complete and that site assessments are properly managed. Monitoring standards are set against applicable international human rights and humanitarian legal instruments while taking into account local religious customs and transitional justice objectives.


-Monitoring
In addition to providing technical assistance to help governments meet their obligations to address the issue of persons missing from armed conflict, ICMP monitors and reports on their activities. Monitoring excavations and exhumations in the field helps ensure that the process is objective and transparent, that records are complete and that site assessments are properly managed. Monitoring standards are set against applicable international human rights and humanitarian legal instruments while taking into account local religious customs and transitional justice objectives.

-Public Involvement: Civil Society Initiatives
Family members of the missing, and the associations they have formed play an important role in truth-seeking, in asserting and exercising their members’ right to justice and in supporting their members who often live in precarious socio-economic conditions and who are among those most affected by trauma and uncertainty.
ICMP encourages the engagement of family members of the missing and other members of civil society, in the representation of their interests and in advocacy activities in four main areas: empowerment, networking, awareness building, and promoting mutual understanding. These efforts are implemented through workshops, conferences and other forums for dialogue designed to help these groups understand their rights and to develop strategies to address common problems through advocacy, education, and public outreach.
ICMP participates in efforts to raise awareness about the problem of missing persons, highlighting the importance of this issue in peace-building processes, as well as its direct impact on survivors and family members and its general implications for society as a whole

-Assistance to Courts
ICMP recognizes that the forensic aspects of its work can be relevant to bringing war criminals to justice. Assisting the criminal justice process as it relates to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is consequently a matter of principle. Without effective criminal justice to end impunity for these most serous of crimes there cannot be lasting peace, nor can such crimes be prevented in the future.
ICMP’s mandate is separate and distinct from the mandate of criminal justice agencies and must be implemented in its own right. ICMP employs operating procedures that protect the implementation of its mandate, in particular by ensuring absolute protection of the privacy of family members. Specifically, ICMP does not make available information entrusted to it by family members without their consent.

-Disaster Relief
While domestic police forces and emergency agencies are responsible for responding to disasters, terrorist attacks and similar events, these occurrences are increasingly assuming an international aspect, and this in turn increases the urgent need for effective international cooperation.

ICMP provides disaster relief support on an ad hoc basis where required, and for this purpose participates in disaster preparedness networks operated by INTERPOL, the European Union and other agencies.

 

 
 
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