WORKSHOP ON MISSING PERSONS
Coalition Provisional Authority
Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 13, 2003
On Sunday, July 13, 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority convened a workshop on Missing Persons at the Baghdad Convention Center. This workshop was sponsored by the CPA’s Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, and included representatives from local Iraqi NGOs, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and political parties. The purpose of this conference was to take initial steps towards launching a national debate on how to address the fate of the missing in Iraq.
For more than 20 years, Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship arrested, detained and “disappeared” hundreds of thousands of persons – of all ethnicities, religion and gender. Some citizens are missing from ten years of war, and others have fled Iraq in the hopes of finding a life free from brutality overseas. Some estimates claim that as many as 1.3 million Iraqis are missing today, and families around Iraq are eager to finally learn what really happened to their loved ones. But finding answers is only the first step. Families will also need to reconcile with the truth and accept its consequences. Some survivors will need counseling, community support and compensation, if valuable pensions are not available. Some survivors may need to see accountability to move forward.
During this workshop, NGOs, political parties, the international community and the CPA discussed ways to learn the truth about where the missing have gone, and how to assist families, communities and Iraq as a whole to recover from this loss and move forward. To find the truth, the first panel addressed tracing methods used by the ICRC to trace missing persons through family reports, and how information from documents and mass graves can help to find answers to what happened to these missing individuals. The second panel addressed ways to assist families to move on, including the Kurdish experience from the 1980s, identification methods, family and community needs, and accountability.
Following the panel discussions, Iraqi participants broke into groups to address: (1) Creation of an Iraqi National Bureau of Missing Persons; (2) Investigative Techniques (regular investigations and DNA); (3) Family and Community Needs; and (4) Accountability. During these group discussions, Iraqi participants had energetic debate on all of these subjects and returned to give their final group reports. Each group had extremely innovative recommendations, and included broad support for the creation of an Iraqi National Bureau of Missing Persons. The goal of the workshop was not to answer these difficult questions - but to launch an Iraqi public debate that participants could take back to their respective organizations.