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Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
News article11 December 2018Service for Foreign Policy Instruments

Supporting Families of Missing Persons from Syria

Families of missing persons are entitled to truth and justice and deserve accountability from governments and civil society organisations. Supported by the European Union, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) brought representatives of families of missing persons, from Syria and elsewhere, together with experts and senior policymakers. Collectively, participants examined strategies that families can adopt in order to access their rights to truth, justice and reparations.

On 10 December 2018, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the European Commission hosted the “Profiles of the Missing” public forum, giving a voice to surviving relatives of missing persons. The event sought to raise public awareness, make recommendations, and demonstrate to policymakers that the issue of missing persons is an indispensable element in addressing security, conflict-prevention, peace building and international justice. ICMP has previously organised Profiles of the Missing events in The Hague, the Netherlands, in Stockholm, Sweden and in Rome, Italy.

Hilde Hardeman, Director and Head of Service of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments of the European Commission, said: “The role of ICMP is crucial to support and strengthen the work (of civil society organizations) at the local level. The fate of the missing will take a central place. Accounting for the missing is key for the future of Syria and the European Union’s work for transitional justice and accountability.”

Rüdiger König, Director General, Humanitarian Assistance, Crisis Prevention Stabilization and Post Conflict Reconstruction, at the German Federal Foreign Office, reiterated Germany’s support to the work done by ICMP: “It plays an important role in bringing about peace and justice. In Germany, we know what it means to have missing persons, and how important it is to support other countries and states to help them find those who are missing as a result of conflict and how important this is for a peace and reconciliation.”

Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, long-time ICMP Commissioner, added: “The families of the missing need us to understand the nature of their struggle. We must listen and we must act.”

Supporting the families of the missing crucial for transitional justice

The EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) funds a programme focusing on Syria, the Middle East and Northern Africa on a wide range of activities, including the collection of personal data from families of the missing. This programme is an important step toward establishing an effective search process. Once a peace agreement for Syria has been found, this search process needs to be expanded in order for transitional justice to prevail. ICMP supports the rights of families of the missing regardless of the circumstances of the missing persons, their ethnic and religious background, or their role in the conflict.

Families of the missing speak out on enforced disappearances

Noura Ghazi, an international human rights lawyer and the widow of Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian democracy activist who was detained and executed by the Syrian Regime, stressed :“Detention in Syria is a kind of kidnapping – it’s not an arrest: There is no ‘why’ (grounds for arrest) or ‘who’ (arresting authority), so, families and detainees have no information. Survivors have the basic right to say what they need and what they suffered from, what is justice for them.”

Fadwa Mahmoud, an activist and co-founder of Families for Freedom, called on people to “listen to the suffering” of families of the disappeared. “To the Syrian mothers I want to send a message, to the families and the others of Syria, if you can speak, then raise your voice. You have to keep the hope to find our children. We will continue to demand in Syria or in Europe wherever we are because we have the right to know the fate of our loved ones and to see them again.

Munira Subašić, President of the Association Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves, said families from every community must unite in solidarity: “We learned that we worked more effectively when we worked together, so to the mothers of Syria I say, you have to work together. Only that way, will you succeed.


ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organisation with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from armed conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons. ICMP launched a programme covering Syria and Middle East and Northern Africa funded under the EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) in 2017. The programme works on a range of activities, including collecting personal data from families, which constitutes a decisive step toward establishing an effective search process that to be expanded after a peace settlement.

Managed by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) provides short- and mid-term assistance on conflict prevention, crisis-response and peace-building actions around the world. There are currently around 200 projects in over 75 countries. These IcSP projects are implemented by Non-Governmental Organisations, the UN and other International Organisations, EU Member State agencies and regional and sub-regional organisations.

For more information:

The EU's Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace

The International Commission on Missing Persons


Publication date
11 December 2018
Service for Foreign Policy Instruments