Norway to support efforts to locate missing persons in Ukraine

Norway is providing NOK 100 million for efforts to find and identify persons who have gone missing in Ukraine in connection with Russia’s war of aggression.

It is estimated that there are between 30 000 and 40 000 missing persons in Ukraine. Many have been killed but not identified, while others have been abducted, held captive, deported to Russia, separated from their families or become victims of human trafficking.

‘Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has had terrible consequences for the civilian population. Norway seeks to facilitate efforts to find and identify those who have been killed or are missing, including children who have been forcefully taken to Russia. This is crucial for the affected families who live in constant distress and uncertainty about what has happened to their loved ones. These efforts are also a means of holding Russia accountable for its violations of international law in Ukraine,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

Norway is providing NOK 100 million in funding to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Ukraine for the period 2024–2026. The agreement on the three-year support package was acknowledged at a meeting held today at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs between State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson and Director-General of the ICMP, Kathryne Bomberger.

The ICMP is assisting the Ukrainian authorities in accounting for a large number of missing persons through among other things mortuary-based analyses and DNA testing. The funding from Norway will help to enable the ICMP to further safeguard the rights of the missing persons and their families.

Under the project, funding will be used to support the activities of civil society organisations that assist the relatives of missing persons, to enhance the technical and professional expertise of the Ukrainian authorities and to expand the capacity of the ICMP’s DNA laboratory in the Hague to make it possible to identify a greater number of missing persons from the ongoing war. The objective is to better equip the Ukrainian authorities to investigate and prosecute violations of international law using fact-based evidence.

The funding for the ICMP is being allocated under the Nansen Support Programme for Ukraine. The identification of missing persons is also an important part of efforts to hold Russia accountable for its illegal aggression in Ukraine.

Norway is providing support along several tracks in the ongoing effort to hold Russia accountable for actions in Ukraine that are in violation of international law. The primary responsibility for prosecuting individuals responsible for international crimes lies with the Ukrainian justice system. Ukraine thus has a key role to play in this context, but other countries have opened national investigations as well. In March 2022, Norway was one of over 40 countries that referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to enable the ICC to open an independent investigation more quickly.

Norway participates in the Dialogue Group on Accountability for Ukraine, which was established to document and prosecute Russia’s war crimes and human rights abuses committed in Ukraine, and in the Council of Europe’s Register of Damage for Ukraine. Norway was also involved in invoking the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism three times since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Furthermore, Norway plays a leading role in the working group for the return of deported children and other civilian hostages and prisoners of war, which was established under Ukraine’s peace formula.

About the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP)

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to secure the cooperation of governments and other authorities in locating persons missing as a result of conflicts, human rights abuses, disasters, organised violence and other causes and to assist them in doing so. The ICMP was established in 1996 and its initial mandate was to help account for the approximately 40 000 persons who were missing due to conflict in the former Yugoslavia, most of whom were missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some 70 % of the persons reported missing are now accounted for. At the request of various governments, the ICMP has been involved in identifying missing and dead persons in many countries across the world, including Syria and Iraq. Norway is not a state party to the ICMP but supports its efforts to help hold perpetrators accountable.