Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
Healing the Wounds of the Conflict and Disaster:
Clarifying the Fate of Missing Persons in the OSCE Area
Her Majesty Queen Noor,
International Commission on Missing Persons
Shawn A. Bray,
U.S. National Central Bureau
Member of the Board of Directors,
Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ms. Fatima Tlisova, Writer/Editor/Producer, Voice of America
The Hearing Was Held at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building,
Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) Moderating
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Federal News Service
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ): The commission will come to order,
and good afternoon to everybody. Today we will hear testimony on how
governments and NGOs can more successfully identify and locate persons missing
as a result of conflict, disasters, crimes such as human trafficking, and other
violations of human rights; and hold accountable those responsible for
Across the OSCE, thousands of families await knowledge of what happened to a
relative from these causes – (inaudible) – and humanitarian need that we cannot
ignore. And of course this tragedy is replicated all over the world, where
people are lost and loved ones try to ascertain: Where are they? Are they
dead or alive? And that’s why we meet today.
This commission has not ignored this need over the years. Particularly since
the mid-1990s we have held many hearings and have had fact-finding missions
that have touched on missing persons from the conflicts in and between
countries of the former Yugoslavia. And both the International Commission on
Missing and – Persons and the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and
Herzegovina have appeared here before as commission witnesses.
Frank Wolf and I visited the Western Balkans, including Vukovar, in August of
1991 – and Srebrenica when the region was still engulfed in ethnic hatred. And
I returned to Srebrenica in July of 2007, where – more than 10 years after the
genocide – I saw the coffins prepared for burial with the remains of hundreds
of men slaughtered in 1995, recently identified through the technologies
developed by the International Commission on Missing Persons. I’ll never
forget the words of Ray Search (ph) as he spoke at a very solemn ceremony,
talking about the need for reconciliation but also the need for justice, as he
tried to comfort many of those survivors and loved ones who were there at that
But it is time also to take stock of this need – what governments and NGOs have
done to respond to it, or have not done. And I think about how that response
can be further improved. The greatest concerted effort that has been made
within the OSCE is to identify and locate missing persons was in the Western
Balkans in the conflicts of the 1990s.
More than 15 years after the end of the Bosnian conflict, and more than 10
years since the end of the heaviest fighting in Kosovo, most of the missing
persons have been identified and located. We are in a position to take stock
of those efforts there, and how lessons learned can be applied elsewhere: for
example, in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of missing persons is
I particularly want to draw attention to the magnificent work of the
International Commission on Missing Persons, which has now located and returned
the remains of over 18,000 victims of war alone, and is now in danger of losing
ground gained because of difficulties over its legal status. One of the
purposes of this hearing is to learn more about how we can support the ongoing
work of the ICMP. At this moment I am preparing to introduce legislation that
would call on the secretary of state to make every effort to advance at the
U.N. a proposal for a permanent and internationally recognized legal status for
the ICMP, so that it can carry out its mandate on a global scale.
I want to thank our distinguished witnesses for being here today: Queen Noor
for making a very special effort to be here and to provide testimony for this
commission, which will give us additional information to act upon.
Finally, as the author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and its
re-authorizations, I look forward to discussing with the witnesses the
trafficking aspects of the missing persons tragedy: the identification and
location of persons missing because they have been trafficked either on – in
sex trafficking or in labor trafficking. I’d like to now yield to my good
friend and colleague, Mr. Cohen, for any opening comments you might have.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just appreciate
your hosting this hearing and having such a distinguished panel. The idea of
missing persons in this age and time is anathema to civilized world, civilized
society. And I know – I, as a – I was a history major and have always been
curious about Raoul Wallenberg (and is ?) one of the missing persons of – after
World War II – and why the Soviets apparently took him, must have imprisoned
him – I mean, it’s not really clear. But his whereabouts were unknown.
We’ve been concerned about our missing-in-action folks in Vietnam, and continue
to, and want them – to know where they are, and bring them home if they’re to
be alive – and, if not, their remains. People want a resting place for their
loved ones. It – that is a very important part of the healing process, and
part of the family that they want to take care of the – their family members,
even if they’ve been killed, and see that they’re given a proper burial.
These particular instances where we see trafficking and people taking away – we
have to find a way to use our scientific resources, which are great – our
ability to conjure the sciences for DNA technologies and other opportunities to
identify people – and use them to clear up mysteries and have a definity (ph)
to the outcomes of war and crime. So with that, I just appreciate the
opportunity to hear from the panel, to see what we can do as a commission, and
thank the chairman for his work in scheduling the committee, and yield back the
balance of my time.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Cohen, thank you very much. Dr. Burgess.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL C. BURGESS (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I –
thanks for the recognition; thanks for calling this hearing. The existence of
missing persons is unfortunately one of the many lingering effects of the
conflicts and turmoil that have happened in several areas over which this
commission has observation for the last few decades. From the Balkans to the
Caucasus to Cyprus, far too many people remain unaccounted, a fate that
torments their families wondering about their status and their wellbeing.
The reasons for disappearance of individuals have multiple sources, from armed
conflicts to human trafficking. At a state level we can try to prevent wars.
But the astonishing cruelty associated with other activities like human
trafficking have alluded governments, and we must do more to combat the blight.
I’ll also just say, on a personal note – although it’s not the subject of this
commission’s hearing today – I did have the opportunity to accompany General
James Conway to a mass grave site just outside the city of Al Hillah in Iraq in
2003, in an area that had just recently been opened up to the families. And I
will never forget the pain that you could see etched on the faces of the
families while they searched, sometimes with their bare hands, for evidence of
a loved one that might have been interred in that – in that grave that was
estimated to contain 200,000 Shiite Muslims.
There have been some advances in piecing together clues to resolve the status
of missing persons. In Cyprus, United Nations and other groups have helped the
two communities come together, identify some missing persons for the last few
decades. But there is still so much to do. I hope the information that we
hear from our witnesses today, and the work that this commission is doing, can
help find those who are missing and prevent misfortune from happening in the
future. Again, Mr. Chairman, it’s an important subject, and I appreciate the
recognition. I yield back.
REP. SMITH: Dr. Burgess, thank you very much. We are now also joined by the
chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly: Mr. Turner, gentleman from Ohio.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL TURNER (R-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for
having this important hearing. And I want to thank the witnesses for their
highlighting what is an important issue as we look to the aftermath at – of
times of conflict. I was talking to Mr. Mašovi? and to Queen Noor that my
community is Dayton, Ohio, where the Dayton peace accords were negotiated that
brought peace to the Balkans. And from that, my community has an affinity for
Bosnia and of course for the people there and the tragedy that ensued.
My first trip to Bosnia was in July of 1996 with commerce secretary Mickey
Kantor, as a follow-on to the tragic Ron Brown trip. Since then, in my
community, Dayton is a sister city to Sarajevo. And many of our institutions
are twinned – hospitals, universities. I had the opportunity, as the chairman
was describing, a couple years ago to be at Srebrenica, where 535 bodies were
returned to families for proper burial.
And I was struck, as the chairman said, of the peace that you could sense with
the families as they received the remains of their loved ones – (inaudible) –
or identified by funding that the United States had provided, to try to bring
an end to the wondering that people have of what happened to their loved ones,
and to give them that sense of closure.
What you’re doing in raising this issue is so important because it brings also
the issue of responsibility. So many times where there has been a tragedy, and
without the requisite proof, justice is also something that is not forthcoming.
So I appreciate your work on an international level, and to highlight the need
for this – not just in the Balkans, but as we look to conflicts throughout our
globe. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Chairman Turner, thank you very much. I’d like to now introduce
our distinguished witnesses, beginning with – and it is the high honor and
extraordinary privilege for this commission to welcome Her Majesty Queen Noor –
who is an active patron, president and board member of numerous national and
international organizations, including the United Nations organizations in the
areas of mother and child health, education and women’s development,
environmental protection, culture and public architecture and planning.
In recognition of her efforts to advance development, democracy and peace, the
queen has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates in international relations
law and humane letters, as well as other international awards. She heads the
Noor Al Hussein Foundation, which was established in 1985 to support
development through education, environment and cultural initiatives. And her
majesty became a commissioner of the International Commission on Missing
Persons in June of 2001.
We then hear from Shawn Bray, who was appointed as the deputy director of
Interpol Washington, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice in February
of 2010. In this capacity Mr. Bray represents the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security as its senior ranking official at Interpol Washington. He is
responsible for managing law enforcement agents, analysts and various
specialists who operate in divisions dedicated to specific investigative areas:
alien, fugitive, economic, crimes, drugs, terrorism, environment crimes, human
trafficking and child protection, counterterrorism, state and local liaison
operations. Very busy man. (Chuckles.)
We’ll then hear from Mr. Amor Mašovi?, who is their chairman of the Bosnian
Federal Commission for Missing Persons. He is a member of parliament of the
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a member of the International
Association of Genocide Scholars. As chairman of the Commission for Missing
Persons, he is responsible for maintaining the records of individuals then
missing since the Bosnian war. Efforts to trace such individuals – recording
and identification of bodily remains; investigation of mass and individual
graves; cooperation with local courts in conducting – exhuming, autopsies,
identification; and evidence gathering in cooperation with U.N. specialized
agencies and other international and national organizations.
We’ll hear then from Ms. Fatima Tlisova, who is currently a writer, editor and
producer of Voice of America’s Russian service. She is also – has experience
as an investigative journalist, researcher and expert on the Northern Caucasus
region of Russia. She has written extensively on Circassian nationalism, the
role of Islam in regional affairs, human rights abuses during the military
operations in the North Caucasus, torture, disappearances and corruptions. She
was editor-in-chief of Regnum News Agency, worked as a special correspondent in
Gazeta, and reported for RFVRL (ph) and for the Associated Press. She has also
appeared twice before our commission to witness on human rights and media
freedoms in Russia.
Queen Noor, the – yield to you for – (inaudible) – such time as you may consume.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR AL HUSSEIN: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, members of the
U.S. Helsinki Commission, thank you for using this occasion to highlight the
issue of persons missing from wars, violations of human rights, natural
disasters. Thank you as well for inviting me – as a commissioner of the ICMP,
the International Commission on Missing Persons – to address an issue that I
believe deserves much more attention than it receives.
The missing are silent. They cannot plead their own cause. By definition, and
often by design, there are no horrific images or messages in the media to
galvanize public outrage. And they do not tweet from the scene, nor set up
Facebook pages to organize protests. They are simply gone.
When people go missing, particularly through state-sanctioned violence, the
family members left behind – usually women and children – are terrified to seek
answers about the fate of their loved ones. In most of the world today, family
members have no legal recourse to demand answers. Those brave enough to ask
often fear reprisals from the very authorities responsible for the
disappearance in the first place, or who are seeking to cover up the crimes of
previous regimes. After all, it is a fundamental tenet of systems of law that,
if there is no body, there is no crime.
And so the silence persists. Breaking that silence is a vital part of dealing
with the past following violent conflict. It is important for reconciliation,
nation-building, and securing peaceful future. It is critical for the healing
process of the families left behind. Most importantly, addressing the problem
of the missing is crucial to preventing future conflict.
Mr. Chairman, ICMP estimates that in the world today there are 1 million
persons missing from war, violations of human rights, human trafficking,
drug-related violence and other causes; and that approximately 150,000 persons
go missing every year from natural or manmade disasters. They, and those who
mourn them, need help to break the silence.
Mass graves are like open wounds. If these crimes are left unresolved, they
breed hatred and can perpetuate a cycle of violence. The legacies of these
crimes, particularly in the former Yugoslavia, are a painful reminder of that
fact. It remains in the interest of the United States to help stop the cycle
of violence by assisting post-conflict states in resolving the problem of the
The International Commission on Missing Persons was created in 1996 at the G-7
summit in Lyons, France, at the initiative of United States president Clinton,
as the only international effort to deal exclusively with the issue. I’ve had
the privilege of serving as a member of ICMP for over a decade, and I take
great pride in its work as a independent human rights organization.
ICMP has a unique mandate. We work with governments to ensure that they take
responsibility for ending the cruel uncertainty inflicted on the families of
the missing; that they build rule-of-law institutions that allow for the
missing to be located, recovered and identified; and that they are held to
account for atrocities committed; in short, that they end the silence.
Equally important, we work with the families of the missing. We educate and
empower them. We help with reconciliation efforts between families from
different groups or different sides of the conflict. We help rebuild trust
between civil society and states emerging from conflict by creating a space for
dialogue between government authorities and the families of the missing, so
that they can demand answers. And we help craft legislation so that the right
to information is enshrined in law.
We also assist judicial institutions, both domestic and international, so that
families of the missing can seek justice and perpetrators are held to account.
In cases of natural or manmade disasters, as with the cases of missing persons
from conflict and human rights abuses, ICMP uses the technology it is perhaps
best known for: an integrated, scientific approach based upon DNA
identification technology. ICMP has so far assisted governments in making, as
you just heard, over 18,000 DNA-based identifications.
While ICMP now assists governments around the world, it was initially created
to address the issue of persons missing from the conflicts in the former
Yugoslavia – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and
Macedonia – where an estimated 40,000 persons disappeared. With the ICMP’s
help, of those 40,000, 70 percent have been accounted for. That is an
unprecedented achievement compared to any other region in the world that has
had to deal with this issue.
I know Srebrenica well. The name of that small town has become a symbol, a
byword for inhumanity – the only recognized genocide on European soil since
World War II – where 8,100 men and boys were executed in a matter of days, and
their bodies hidden in a series of mass graves strewn across the Bosnian
I first visited in 1996, a year after the massacre, to bring humanitarian
supplies from Jordan and to meet with thousands of grief-stricken survivors to
express solidarity and support. Years later, I returned as an ICMP
commissioner to meet and often weep with Bosniak, Serb and Croat women and men,
as they struggled to come to terms with the disappearances of their husbands,
sons and fathers – killed in some cases by the husbands or sons of those
sitting across the table from them.
I remember their stories of being shunned from government offices and living
neglected in collective centers, many with their fatherless children. ICMP
reached out to them – to all of the families of the missing – regardless of
ethnic, religious or national origin. And they became our partners in a
first-ever effort to systematically, scientifically locate and identify their
Remarkably, many of them united across religious lines and worked together to
fight for answers and to create lists of the relatives of the missing. And,
armed with this information, we began a large-scale effort across the former
Yugoslavia to collect blood samples for DNA testing. Providing a blood sample
soon became a powerful symbol for many of these families, to declare their loss
and to give of themselves to identify their loved ones.
Mr. Chairman, I have been in the mass graves. I am still haunted by the
memory. qI still cannot comprehend the barbarism that mankind is capable of
inflicting on his fellow man and the calculated, systematic attempts to strip
these people of their humanity, to hide their bodies repeatedly so that they
would never be identified, in order to deny that these atrocities took place.
And I’ve been in our ICMP DNA labs where identifications take place. We first
started using DNA because all other methods to identify the missing have proved
to be inadequate. I remember well that when I first became a commissioner, it
seemed inconceivable that such a large number of persons could be identified
and – could be located and identified. ICMP made a bold decision to do
something that had never been done before: to use a technology, one that was
still controversial in those days, even in court cases, and one that had
certainly never been used following violent conflict where large numbers of
persons were missing.
Skeptics said it was impossible, that at best we would be able to identify a
thousand people, or that it would take a hundred years, or that the costs would
be prohibitive. I remember our early efforts to teach families of the missing
about DNA. But this powerful scientific tool proved invaluable in efficiently
providing irrefutable evidence of the identity of tens of thousands.
Through painstaking work and exquisitely sensitive techniques of DNA analysis,
ICMP is able to make genetic matches between DNA profiles taken from skeletal
remains recovered from mass graves and DNA profiles provided voluntarily by
living family members, thus merging state-of-the-art science with human
outreach in the service of justice and human rights. In a politically charged
post-conflict region like the former Yugoslavia, where denial regarding mass
killings is prevalent, having this type of precision helped combat the myth
that events such as Srebrenica never happened.
Today, of the approximately 8,100 persons killed and missing from the fall of
Srebrenica, ICMP has helped identify 6,700. Simultaneously, we worked with
regional authorities to build the political, legal and technical infrastructure
that would allow governments to search for the missing regardless of their
ethnic, religious or national origin.
Critically, we helped them build rule-of-law institutions, such as the Missing
Persons Institute in Bosnia, that work with the prosecutor’s office to ensure
that each illicit grave site or mass grave is investigated as the scene of a
crime – in these cases, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Recently we
held a series of town hall meetings in the countries of the Western Balkans
with the families of the missing.
Now that a majority of missing persons have been accounted for, the narrative
has shifted from a desire to know the fate of the missing to want justice. The
holistic approach of ICMP – working with governments, civil society, justice
institutions, and providing scientifically based process of locating,
recovering and identifying the missing – has set the parameters that will help
the families pursue their legal rights and their desire for justice.
Mr. Chairman, ICMP has broken the silence. And we hope that this new, modern
approach, which has demonstrated that the missing can be found, will
reverberate across other conflict regions. In order to expand on the success
of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as well as the heroic efforts of
thousands of affected families in accounting for such a large number of missing
persons, we have developed a set of principles which are listed in the
documents that we have provided the commission.
While these principles provide important guidance for governments around the
world faced with the issue of the missing, I am particularly concerned with
countries in the OSCE states outside of the Western Balkans. The issue of
missing persons affects almost one quarter of the OSCE states. Unfortunately,
limited progress has been made over the past decade. For example, there are
still 3(,000) to 5,000 missing in Chechnya. Only 310 of the 1,500 to 2,000
people reported missing in Cyprus have been accounted for, and the almost 5,000
people are still reported missing from Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
I would like to reiterate, by comparison, that the countries in the Western
Balkans, in just over a decade, have been able to account for 70 percent of
those missing, of which the vast majority were identified by DNA. These
achievements are still not widely known. But ICMP stands ready to help these
countries in the rest of the OSCE region break the silence on missing persons
just as dramatically.
I’d like to thank the U.S. Helsinki Commission for its tireless work in taking
on tough human rights issues in Europe. I very much look forward to ICMP
providing support to OSCE countries. With your support, the issue of missing
persons as a result of armed conflict in Europe can be resolved. The silence
on this issue cannot continue, and I hope this hearing will resonate throughout
the OSCE region and beyond.
Our breakthrough in using an integrated, scientific approach to identify the
missing also applies following natural or man-made disasters. ICMP has
assisted Germany, Norway and Austria in dealing with missing-persons cases. In
partnership with Interpol, ICMP has helped Thailand and the Maldives following
the 2004 tsunami, and the Philippines following Typhoon Frank in 2008. ICMP
and Interpol are now in the process of expanding their partnership to create a
permanent disaster-victim identification platform.
Mr. Chairman, the issue of missing persons presents a global challenge that
demands a global solution. ICMP, with its specialized technology and
expertise, is the only organization in the world capable of doing so
effectively and efficiently. ICMP’s work has expanded since our early days in
the former Yugoslavia, and we are currently assisting Iraq, where up to 1
million persons are reported missing. And we have helped Colombia, Chile,
South Africa, El Salvador deal with missing persons from human rights abuses
ICMP’s work has also benefited the United States. I’m proud to say that ICMP
helped the state of Louisiana identify missing persons following Hurricane
Katrina. And I vividly remember meeting with the mayor of New York City soon
after the 9/11 disaster to offer our assistance. His articulation, if you
will, of the – of what he had been told by the surviving family members of
victims of the World Trade Center disaster, in fact, were verbatim what I had
been hearing from families in Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia.
Sadly, in many other places where a request for our assistance has come from
governments or NGOs – such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal,
Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, and most recent Libya –
we’ve had great difficulty in gaining support and funds to provide desperately
needed assistance – despite our successes, particularly in the Western Balkans,
where we will soon end our active engagement. In addition, we are receiving
increasing demands to help with missing-persons cases related to human
trafficking, drug-related violence and a whole host of other causes.
The need for knowledge, for closure in these situations is universal. And
providing it is critical to overcoming anger and despair and restoring
stability to families, communities and nations. The fundamental human rights
work of ICMP is not only palliative, it is preventative. The healing and
recovery it provides to victims, as well as the process of accountability it
helps foster with governments, are absolutely integral to the process of
healing, reconciliation, justice and ultimately conflict prevention.
In closing, I would also like to thank my fellow ICMP commissioners from around
the world who volunteer their time to assist ICMP. And in particular I would
like to acknowledge and thank the current and previous chairpersons of ICMP,
including Cyrus Vance, Bob Dole, James Kimsey and the current chair, Ambassador
I would also like to thank the governments that support ICMP’s work,
particularly the United States. The support of the United States State
Department was critical in creating ICMP and making it a success story. I hope
that this important support will continue. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much for a very, very eloquent statement,
comprehensive, and for the great work that you and your organization does in
this behalf. We are joined by Commissioner Pitts, as well as by Chairman Pitts
and Chairman Frank Wolf. Frank, would you – OK – caught him as he was sitting
I’d like to now ask to Mr. Bray, if you have – (inaudible) – provide your
SHAWN A. BRAY: Good afternoon, Chairman Smith, distinguished members of the
commission, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor to appear before you today on
behalf of Interpol to discuss how the International Criminal Police
Organization is helping law enforcement overcome obstacles to locating and
identifying missing persons around the world as well as here at home.
Interpol Washington is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice and is
co-managed by the Department of Homeland Security. We are the statutorily
designated representative to Interpol on behalf of the attorney general. As
such, we become the official point of contact for all Interpol-related matters
in the United States.
Although primarily noted for its work in locating and apprehending
transnational criminals and fugitives, Interpol plays a significant and
important role in responding to requests for humanitarian assistance that may
involve such matters as missing persons, victim identification, death
notifications, threatened suicides, and health and welfare checks for persons
around the world.
Using a sophisticated communications network, Interpol provides the world’s law
enforcement authorities with access to a variety of tools and resources that
are being used to great effect in these humanitarian efforts – as part of
either an individual inquiry or investigation, or in response to a larger-scale
disaster. One of Interpol’s most important functions is to enable the world’s
police to exchange investigative information quickly and securely.
Accordingly, Interpol has developed the I-24/7, a noted system that is
encrypted, Internet-based, establishes communications, and a network that
facilitates police-to-police interaction in real time, enabling users in 190
member countries to share crucial police data and access Interpol databases and
services each day. Services that are currently available through the I-24/7
include secure messaging, direct access to Interpol’s databases of nominal
information such as fingerprints, photographs, DNA profiles, and biographical
details on subjects of Interpol notices.
These notices, which are color-coded to indicate their specific purpose, are
distributed to law enforcement authorities in the Interpol member countries for
purposes that include, but are certainly not limited to: locating and seeking
the arrest of fugitives, such as the famous red notice; locating missing
persons or helping identify persons who are not able to identify themselves, as
a yellow notice; and seeking information about unidentified persons who are
deceased, which is a black notice.
These very systems which have allowed Interpol member countries to locate and
apprehend serious and violent criminal offenders around the world also enable
the organization to provide real-time assistance in locating and identifying
missing persons, as well as others who are of official interest or concern to
law enforcement. For example, Interpol is currently implementing the Fast ID
system. This is a system that began with a conceptualization and a realization
that no centralized, truly global police database exists for use in identifying
missing persons and/or unidentified bodies.
Accordingly, Interpol began development of such a database with the objective
of providing decentralized access to its member countries through the I-24/7
and for use in conjunction with the larger-scale disasters and regular policing
activities that they face every day. The data used in the Fast ID system will
be obtained from Interpol’s disaster victim identification program, its forms
and deployments, together with information provided in the corresponding yellow
and black notices and its data sets.
Once entered, the data is processed through three separate components designed
to increase opportunity for positive identification. The system merges
components collected from the Interpol notices – secondary identifiers but
certainly important identifiers such as clothing, body markings, piercings,
jewelry – and ultimately will include facial recognition. However, the main
component collects primary identifiers from the existing databases which you’ve
heard about today, such as fingerprints, DNA and dental records.
Interpol launched a prototype of the Fast ID system in 2011. Interactive
testing of that system is currently being conducted with the objective of
moving to full-phase testing later in 2012, followed by full implementation
across its member countries. Fast ID is the newest component of Interpol’s
well-developed services that constitute its DVI program.
Interpol’s DVI program utilizes internationally recognized processes and
standards for identifying victims of major disasters, such as terrorist attacks
or earthquakes, where visual recognation (ph) – pardon me, recognition – is not
possible or may be severely limited. Under such circumstances, comparison by
fingerprints, dental records or stored DNA samples are typically required for
Interpol’s DVI services include command and coordination assistance, fully
deployable incident response teams that can provide on-site investigative
support or direct connectivity to Interpol’s investigative databases and
command center. Interpol’s DVI activities are led by the organization’s
standing committee on disaster victim identification. This committee is
comprised of forensic and police experts from around the world that meet
regularly to discuss improvements to standards and procedures in these matters.
Interpol’s standards and guidelines for disaster victim identification are
backed by specific training programs that include victim care and family
support, compliance with international standards and forensic quality assurance
controls, information sharing and exchange, and operational assistance to
countries lacking disaster victim identification capacity. Many of these
standards were developed in partnership with organizations and member
countries. Such organizations as the International Commission on Missing
Persons have been crucial in these efforts.
I am also pleased to report that in 2014 Interpol will open its Interpol Global
Complex for Innovation, or IGCI. This state-of-the-art facility in Singapore
will focus on innovative research and capacity-building for law enforcement
agencies worldwide. One of its primary functions will be to enhance Interpol’s
DVI forensic capabilities and serve as a global resource and ultimately a
platform for ensuring adequate levels of disaster preparedness.
Interpol actively supports its member countries’ law enforcement efforts to
investigate serious transnational crimes, including genocide, war crimes and
crimes against humanity. Interpol’s fugitive investigative support
subdirectorate focuses specifically on three key areas of assistance to provide
support to its member countries. It focuses on operations, networking and
While operational support is achieved through the publication of the red
notices – an international alert for locating and apprehending fugitives and
wanted persons – training support is also provided to enhance capacity and
proficiency in law enforcement agencies around the world, specifically with
processing forensic evidence related to mass atrocities, skills that are
necessary in locating, recovering and identifying victim remains, and
successfully prosecuting perpetrators of these horrific crimes.
In the United States, Interpol Washington uses the I-24/7 and the Interpol
notice system to support domestic and foreign law enforcement efforts to locate
missing children, abducted children, missing adults and unidentified deceased
persons. For example, within the framework of our missing and abducted
children’s program, Interpol Washington’s human trafficking and child
protection division publishes yellow notices and diffusions to seek the
location and safe return of missing U.S. children to their parents.
Similarly, incoming requests from our foreign law enforcement counterparts are
entered into U.S. indices, including the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children. This information is promptly shared with law enforcement
agencies nationwide in regard to children who are missing, removed from or
brought to the U.S. by a noncustodial parent. In furthering these efforts,
Interpol Washington also coordinates with the U.S. Department of State Office
of Children’s Issues, which manages the complementary Hague Convention cases
that we undergo.
Through our international missing persons program, Interpol Washington’s
alien/fugitive division utilizes yellow notices to locate and identify persons
over the age of 18 who have been reported missing by domestic and foreign law
enforcement agencies. Similarly, the International Unidentified Dead Body
Program uses Interpol black notices and directs inquiries from member countries
to assist in identifying remains of unidentified deceased persons recovered by
law enforcement authorities worldwide.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the commission, the theme of today’s
testimony is: How can we overcome obstacles to locating and identifying
persons who have become missing from a variety of causes, both man-made and
natural in nature? As we are all aware, efforts to locate and identify missing
persons oftentimes have an international dimension that truly requires an
In order to respond effectively, U.S. law enforcement authorities and our
foreign counterparts must be able to overcome the very real linguistic,
cultural and legal barriers that complicate the exchange of investigative
information and often prevent support across international boundaries. As the
world’s largest organization for policing, Interpol provides the necessary
communications network, framework for police cooperation, and investigative
tools and services essential to our success.
As the national central bureau of Interpol for the United States, Interpol
Washington is an active partner in international law enforcement efforts to
ensure the timely location and identification of such persons. I would like to
conclude by thanking the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and your professional staff
in particular, for your continuing and tireless efforts to promote human
rights. The hearing is certainly a continuing testimony to your commitment and
dedication to such a worthy cause. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Bray, for your testimony and for your
outstanding work, which this commission and really the Foreign Affairs
Committee has – since I work on human rights – we followed very carefully.
Thank you so much.
I’d like to ask Ms. Tlisova, if she would proceed.
FATIMA TLISOVA: Thank you, Chairman Smith and the members of the Helsinki
Commission, for the honor to speak here today. I appear before you in my
professional capacity as a reporter for VOA’s Russian service and not as a
private citizen. And I will – I will testify honestly and from the best of my
At the VOA Russian service, we run a special section called Caucasus Today. In
this series of reports, we are aiming to present interviews and opinions of
experts who are focused on the situation in this region, as well as giving
voice to the people from the North Caucasus, among whom are journalists,
lawyers and human rights activists, members of the government forces, and
victims of the human rights abuses.
As a journalist responsible for the Caucasus section at the VOA Russian, I
personally am in direct contact with representatives of society in the north
Caucasus on a daily basis. To give you an impression of the extent of those
connections, I can tell you that the night before yesterday a Skype call woke
me – woke me up at two in the morning. It was a human rights activist from
tiny Republic of Ingushetia, begging me to spread information on the latest
disappearance – 23 years old, Rustam Aushev was kidnapped.
His relatives were able to collect a visual recording from security cameras
that show how Rustam was taken by men in civilian clothes. Relatives also have
eyewitness testimony from the local highway patrol officers who said that upon
the request to remove a vehicle from a restricted area, the person in the van
presented them the ID of an FSB officer. This was the same car that, as
recorded on the video, drove away from – with Rustam Aushev.
The human rights activist who called me that night said Rustam might still be
alive. With day by – with days passing, the chances that his family will ever
see him again are vanishing. Usually after two weeks, people start collecting
money to bribe officials to buy back the body of their loved ones. This is a
story not of just one particular person. This is a story of hundreds of
families and thousands of young men and women.
I’m not – I’m not referring to the statistics in my testimony. The numbers are
available in the – in the regular reports of the major human rights
organizations. As impossible as they sound, according to the information from
the local NGOs, they do not represent the real data, which is much larger. My
testimony is based on an observation of the – (inaudible) – latest reports
performed by the VOA Russian service. I will address main issues by quoting
First – (inaudible) – the special amendment to Russia’s criminal court
introduced by Vladimir Putin puts the FSB, the former KGB, in a special
position, which gives them unlimited authority in initiating and performing
counterterrorism operations, so-called KTO. In his video interview to VOA, the
United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Martin
Scheinin, underlined that the main problem with Russia’s definition of
terrorism is that it often used against – that is, it is often used against
political opponents, giving the authorities the ability to expand the usage of
anti-terrorism law against persons and groups who do not employ terrorist
methods. Based on the current law, the Russian security services are able to
create blacklists, which do not imply any legal mechanism for the people who
are on those lists to defend their lives and their reputation.
The role of security services: in a Skype interview to VOA – (name inaudible) –
the former officer of the – (inaudible) – Caucasus confirmed that the Federal
Security Services are directly involved in forced disappearances. Kidnapped
persons are being subjects of brutal torture and posthumously labeled as
members of terrorist, extremist groups. The bodies are disposed. And
thousands of families have never granted a luxury to properly bury their loved
The role of judiciary system: (inaudible) – kidnapped is now – (inaudible).
For two weeks, his family did not know anything of his whereabouts. When his
name appeared, then his name appeared among detainees accused in an attempt to
overthrow Russian government. In his letter from prison to European Court of
Human Rights – (inaudible) – wrote: For a very long time, I was beaten
brutally in a perverted manner. After I signed empty sheets of paper, they
brought me to the judge, naked and covered in blood. I do not remember the
face of the judge who gave them a warrant for my arrest without even asking a
single question about my condition.
In her interview to VOA, independent lawyer from – (in Russian) – (name
inaudible) – said that kidnapping is followed by detention, in which the victim
is tortured to the point where he signs blank papers. After that, he can be
accused in any crime. Her colleagues from Dagestan in Chechnya – (inaudible) –
when interviewed by VOA said that detained persons are denied the right to an
independent lawyer. They have to accept the lawyers appointed by the state.
The three of them independently made a statement that the judiciary system in
the North Caucasus is fully under control of the security services. Decisions
are political motivated, predetermined and – predetermined by the orders from
the FSB and do not represent justice.
A former member of the Russian Presidential Commission on Human Rights and the
well-known journalist, Maxim Shevchenko, when interviewed by VOA, underlined
that the Kremlin’s brutal policy towards the North Caucasus is the very source
of radicalization in every nation of the Caucasus. He said that people are
forced to live with the knowledge that for this state, their lives value zero.
Violence committed by the government forces produces hatred and vengeance.
Without a fundamental change of policy, this region is doomed to become a
threat not only to Russia but to Europe in whole. There are many other aspects
of this problem – to this problem. To the best of my ability, I gave you a
very few major issues that support the system, where forced disappearances are
not only possible but represent a very basic and a common tool for mass
violations of human rights in the North Caucasus.
Thank you for your attention.
REP. SMITH: Thank you so very much for your testimony. Mr. Masovic?
AMOR MASOVIC: (Through interpreter.) Honorable members of Congress, ladies
and gentlemen, for the past 20 years I’m participating in the process of
identifying and registering missing persons in the territory of Bosnia and
Herzegovina whose disappearances is a result of an armed conflict which
occurred in the beginning of the 90 century – ’90 in the past century.
In the period between 1992 through present, I was leading many teams and
institutions who managed to locate over 500 mass graves and more than 5,000
individual gravesites filled with human remains and more than 60,000 victims of
forced disappearances. As a result of war, genocide, crimes against humanity
and international law, it has documented disappearance of approximately 30,000
people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and approximately 10,000 in Croatia, Serbia,
Generally, I’m speaking of civilian population – men, women and children – who
disappeared in eastern and western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The
geographical territory in the east is along the flow of river Drina, which
banks’ borderlines the country of Serbia, and in the west, along the flow of
More than quarters (ph) of all missing persons were men and boys that
disappeared during the military and police force aggression conducted by
Karadzic and Mladic. These forces operated on territory in and around of town
Srebrenica, which was protected by the flag of U.N. peacekeeping forces. The
facts are that only in the period – a few days in the month of July 1995, at
least 8,300 Bosnians were assassinated in the shooting range or mercilessly
killed. All these atrocities happened while the people of Bosnia and
Herzegovina were under the protection of the U.S. peacekeeping forces.
All above mentioned facts are the obstacles in the process of finding and
identifying the victims of enforced disappearances. Particularly, the fact is
that the largest number of the enforced disappearances were result of genocide
and the forms of war atrocities committed against civilians, and only a small
number of disappeared were members of the military and police forces, which
were missing in action.
On the other hand, it is the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina in a decade and a
half still is not prepared to face the past and confront the organizers and
perpetrators of the mass crimes. Not a small number of government
representatives from the low-level positions to high-level positions are not
willing to act with the accordance of the international obligations, neither
with the accordance of the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as the law of
the missing persons of Bosnia-Herzogovina.
Mr. Chairman, we face chronic absence of information about the perpetrators of
the crimes, about the victims and of forced disappearance, about the locations
and the identity of victims, about dislocated primary into the secondary
gravesites. All above mentioned facts are the main obstacles that
Bosnia-Herzegovina is still facing and the obstacles that are still in the way
for solving the problems of missing persons.
Accountable individuals and accountable government officials – not only that
they refuse to supply the information which would help in locating the
gravesite, yet they refuse to support the state court and Prosecutor’s Office
of Bosnia-Herzegovina and directly obstruct the process of determining the
truth and achieve the justice.
The state court and Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the
collaboration with International Criminal Court, for the former Yugoslavia,
accused and convicted certain number of responsible persons for the forced
disappearances. But the absence of political and all other forms of help and
support are preventing them to be even more effective. International
prosecutors and judges who are involved in the local judicial institutions
suffer constant attacks and pressure from the certain politicians, which do not
only not perform their duties but recently tried to minimize and altogether
negate the occurrence of the crime – war crimes, including genocide and forced
This behavior of certain individuals and government groups leave consequences
on the family members of missing persons, especially the family members that
are still searching for their loved ones. And because of this behavior,
they’re becoming more and more aware that their loved ones might not ever be
found. The shortcomings is in a clearly stated political will to confront our
past and truth, no matter how horrifying it is. It is an obstacle in a faster
and more effective solution of the missing persons problem, not only in Bosnia
and Herzegovina but in whole region.
Absolutely the same conclusion was realized by the Working Group of Enforced
and Involuntary Disappearances organized by the United Nation(s). Therefore,
is extremely important – it’s of extremely (ph) importance that the government
of Bosnia-Herzegovina implements without any delay the recommendations by the
working group and creates conditions for speeding up the process of exhuming
and identifying the victims.
To that effect, the following points are essential: to support and empower the
independence of the Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
provide more resources and require technology for finding mass graves. The
government of Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to: provide more political and
financial support to the institutions for the missing persons; increase the
number of prosecutors who are engaged in – (inaudible) – and criminal
prosecution of war criminals; provide fruitful negotiations between the
government and the families of the missing persons, in order to ensure their
rights to find the truth and repair the lost trust; provide larger number of
forensic pathologists to ensure a faster process of identification; establish a
functional forensic center on the state level; bring to justice key commanders
and all other criminals, in order to strengthen the process of revealing the
truth; strengthen the program of protection for witnesses in order to come
forward with information for the location of the mass gravesites; provide
support to the families of the victims, who are still exposed to attacks,
threats and harassments; legislating a criminal law that enforced disappearance
is an individual, criminal act, so in cases where it’s not possible to convict
for the crimes against humanity, prosecution will still be able to convict and
sentence; to make impossible to grant amnesty for the accused of enforced
disappearance; regard enforced disappearance as a continuous crime, which is
going to enable implementation of all other laws which are passed after the
occurrence of forced disappearances.
This will not undermine the principle of the retroactive implementation of the
newly passed laws. Working Group on Forced and Involuntary Disappearances by
the U.N. specifically points out in their recommendation to the government of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the key role of the international commission for the
missing persons, and recommends that the commission remains active and stays
active in the future involvements in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mr. Chairman, lastly I would like to emphasize that in spite of the obstacles
previously mentioned, Bosnia-Herzegovina remains the leader in the world for
solving the missing persons cases. I am sure that this opportunity to testify
that was given to me by the Helsinki committee and – under leadership of
honorable Congressman Smith, who was honored with the biggest award given by
the families of the victims called – (in Russian) – and the testimony of all
others involved future motivate United States of America and European community
continue this successful project, or a story about discovering the final
destinies of the missing in Bosnia.
I believe that my country will never be able to thank properly the people of
United States of America, United States government, state secretaries, members
of the Congress, senators, members of the U.S. armed forces, negotiators,
diplomats and many others for every assistance and effort to stop the war and
successful prosecution of the war criminals.
Members of my team and hundreds of citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina requested
that today, in front of this committee, I convey their most heartfelt thanks
and deep gratitude to the former chairmans of the ICMP, secretary of state, Mr.
Vance, Senator Dole, Mr. J. Kimsey, present chairman, Ambassador Miller.
Special gratitude to Her Majesty Queen Noor, who was able to recognize the pain
and suffering that was in the hearts of Bosnian mothers, sisters and daughters,
and lend a hand in soothing the grief from human tragedies. Special gratitude
to Katherine Bloomberg (sp); without her, we would not have a law for missing
persons or the Institute for Missing Persons. Special thanks to Katherine
Bloomberg (sp) and her assistant – tens of thousands of Bosnian women and men
have found their peace.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Masovic, thank you very much for your testimony and for the
acknowledgements of all the key players, but you left out yourself, because you
have been a key player for so long and have done an extraordinary job.
Let me just ask a few opening questions. And, first of all, to Queen Noor, if
you could, do you find that when families are apprised of the findings,
gruesome as they may be, from a mass grave, that they accept it? Or is there a
time lag where – or that they doubt it? How does that work?
Push the button, please. Thank you.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: It – to some extent it depends on the circumstances,
how long it has been. But it is absolutely critical that they do finally have
that information. And as I was saying, I found that families in New York City
were using exactly the same words to describe their need for closure as
families in Bosnia and elsewhere in the region have used, to describe their
need for that information in order to achieve a personal, emotional, if you
will, and psychological closure, but also in order to begin to move forward and
to look forward to a future in which then can be active participants that
ultimately can have an impact on the role that they can play in promoting
reconciliation and stability in their communities and in their countries.
And we found that, in fact, in bringing together those who had suffered these
losses from a different – the different religious, ethnic and national groups,
that in fact – that they were able to find some measure of common – something
in their common suffering that enabled them together to look at a different way
of living in the future that we also consider to be of great value.
REP. SMITH: You know, you mentioned the 9/11 – almost 60 individuals from my
district died in the World Trade Center. And I got to know many, not all, but
many of the survivors. And I got to know them quite well. And your point is
very well taken. Kristen Breitweiser, who is one of the widows from 9/11, and
she was affectionately known as one of the Jersey girls, because they were the
ones who led the effort to get the 9/11 Commission. And they were absolutely
tenacious – three – she and three others.
But she told me and a group down here, the first time I met her, that she – you
know, had – even though she knew the last point where her husband was in the
World Trade Center – last location – she still wondered, was he there? You
know, was he – because she wasn’t on the phone with him. And it was when she
got her ring back – his ring, obviously the wedding ring – with a finger – as
gruesome as that is, and it is gruesome – that she began to have closure that
he did indeed die.
And yet, we all watched – I mean, there was no question where it all happened.
Now, in a battlefield, obviously, and natural disasters there’s certainly
greater room for skepticism about – so – which is why the DNA is so important.
Let me ask you – or just – back in 1998, March 31st, sitting right where Mr.
Bray is sitting, I chaired a hearing of my subcommittee. It was called the
Subcommittee of International Operations and Human Rights.
And we heard from Hasan Nuhanovic, who was the translator when Mladic met with
the Dutch peacekeepers. And this was three years after the 1995 genocide
occurred. Matter of fact, we had a hearing that I also chaired right here on
mass graves and other atrocities in Bosnia in December of ’95. But the full
weight of what had happened there was still streaming out. In 1998, here’s the
man who had his whole family – or much of his family disappear right in front
of his midst, said: The Dutch not only turned the people over to the Serbs,
but also tried to hide the evidence about it. They hid the list of 239 people
from the Potocari camp. They did nothing to find out what had happened to
those men and boys – we know it was 8,000 strong – including some women,
including my mother, until I visited the Dutch Defense Ministry in The Hague in
January or 1997. And he went on to say: There was no news about the fate of
the people, still. This was three years after that genocide.
The need for reorganization and the work of all of you is so extraordinarily
important, one, for the families; secondly for governments, including friendly
governments, you know, the so-called safe haven at Srebrenica where the Dutch
peacekeepers literally handed over to Mladic people for slaughter – that, you
know, what ensued thereafter was anything but a transparent and open
investigation. There was efforts to hide what had happened. So the importance
of holding to account governments, holding to account friendly governments –
not just those who perpetrate the crimes – I think cannot be understated.
So I thank you for the work that you’re doing. I would ask you, you know, if –
and if any of you would like to answer it – you know, dictatorships are always
harder to deal with, and whether or not you have found, in your work, where
access to the battlefield or even access to a natural disaster is hindered or
hampered by the fact that it might be a dictatorship like China. Even Vietnam
– you know, their – we have Americans – World War II, 73,000 MIAs; Korean War,
almost 8,000; Vietnam 1,689 still MIA.
The latter two – World War II we had access to the battlefield globally – or
almost total access. Many died on ships so those men and women will never be
known where they died. But in Korea, no access to North Korea at all – very
little, you know, over the years. And Vietnam, obviously, it has been done
very, very slowly over the course of many years. So my question is about the
access in dictatorships or authoritarian regimes. Has it been your experience
to find that’s harder? You mentioned 9 million in Iraq. I’m not sure if that
was during Hussein or more recent.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Well, Iraq breaks that – well, one footnote to your –
what you were saying initially, at the beginning, about the translator. We
have actually, in fact, identified now all of Hasan’s family. It’s just a
small footnote, but it is –
REP. SMITH: It’s important.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: -- it is a little example of what ICMP – the impact
that we’ve had on so many families – I wish all of them, but a large percentage
Yes, it does depend on – every country’s circumstances are slightly different.
And we’ve had a range of experiences that are very much affected by the legal
and political systems in different countries. And in Iraq, we have been
training people from Iraqi ministries in scientific methods to evacuate mortal
But just as in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans, in countries like Iraq and
others, like Libya, which have asked for our help as well, and Lebanon, there
are different parties that have different vested interests in either exposing
the full truth and all the information about these cases or in trying to
conceal them, and as I said in my remarks, or cover up for previous regimes.
So there are a variety of different circumstances. I don’t know if you have
perhaps some observations on that. And we, as an independent, impartial
organization, feel that we are well-suited. And we have been able to provide
information and court cases, because we are respected and understood to be an
impartial organization, able to operate in ways that other entities, like ICRC
and other entities, are not as able to do today.
MR. BRAY: I would agree that it depends country-to-country. With Interpol you
have 190 member countries that come together voluntarily. Within the U.S. we
refer to a thin blue line connecting law enforcement at all our levels –
federal, state, local and tribal. But I would submit that this line also
exists between countries, particularly through Interpol.
We often get much accomplished, despite geopolitical differences, because we’re
communicating law enforcement to law enforcement to solve crime, to promote
humanitarian efforts. I think that’s where organizations such as these come
into their own.
Now, can I say that across the board that level of cooperation exists within
every country? I would not submit that to you. But I would say that every
effort that we can make, every tool in the box should be utilized in such
REP. SMITH: We do have a vote on the floor. There’s three, but they’ll –
it’ll only take about 10 minutes and then we’ll come back. But I would like to
yield to Mr. Pitts. And I know if people have schedules they have to meet, we
certainly understand. But we would like to, if you could, just bear with us
for 10 minutes after Mr. Pitts’ questioning.
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH PITTS (R-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Your Majesty,
thank you for your work. And thank you all for your compelling testimony. I
would like to ask you, I mean, your – how can the ICMP’s success be transferred
to other OSCE states faced with the issue of missing persons? And what has
been the ICMP’s work within OSCE outside of Western Balkans?
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: We – I think that we’ve demonstrated that, first of
all, bringing international attention to an issue like this – and that’s
exemplified by the creation of ICMP in the first place – is – has – is one very
important factor. And certainly this meeting is a great asset to all of our
efforts in that regard. Our pioneering DNA technology is another asset and
factor that can be applicable to successfully addressing these problems in
other OSCE countries.
The fact that governments in the region of the Western Balkans demonstrated the
political will to address this issue was absolutely critical to our success.
And the fact that we also adopted an adherence to the rule of law approach, not
just a humanitarian approach to the issue, also was critical because where
persons are missing from conflict and human rights abuses, it’s a consequence
of criminal activity. And that’s very different from persons missing from, for
example, natural disasters.
And it’s that government cooperation working, in this case, with the
International Criminal Court and domestic courts help to expedite the process
of locating missing persons. And then our use of DNA technology, enabling them
to accurately identify the missing, that combination was critical to our
success in the Western Balkans and also is certainly applicable to the larger
REP. PITTS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’ve only got five minutes. So I think
I’ll have to submit my questions in writing. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Well, just to best use – I hope I don’t miss the vote – let me ask
a couple of other questions. The ICMP has stated that it needs certain
immunities to cover its operations outside of the Western Balkans, where it has
been granted quasi-international status. How does the absence of these
immunities impact or impede the ICMP’s work?
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Well, there are – it is finding that the ad hoc –
we’ve been finding that the ad hoc approach that we have had to date is not
really sustainable. We haven’t had a permanent formal legal status, but rather
a series of bilateral agreements with various countries.
And for example, just to be very specific, some countries have claimed to be
reluctant to conclude agreements with us because we don’t have a permanent
internationally-recognized legal status. And this has stopped at least one
project from going ahead in Colombia that would have supported U.S. interests
in resolving dubious claims about the armed struggle against the FARC
guerillas. It also makes it difficult for us to assist in excavation of mass
graves related, for example, to the regime crimes in Iraq and providing
DNA-based identity testing assistance.
It is, I think, absolutely critical that we are able to continue this
independent, impartial approach. And while we’ve demonstrated its efficacy in
the Western Balkans, and to some extent in other services we’ve provided to
other countries, it – we are finding that this – what we’ve been talking to the
commission about and what we very much hope the United States will be able to
advocate for us in terms of that international formal legal status, will enable
us to be able to respond to and much more effectively address the – a range of
different problems in different countries that are urgently asking for our
help. And those range from Iraq, but also, as I mentioned earlier, Libya and
Latin America and elsewhere, of course.
REP. SMITH: Let me ask Ms. Tlisova – about 5,000 Chechens still remain
unaccounted for from the first and second Chechen wars. Without Russian
cooperation, what can be done? I mean, there’s a lack of international law on
this. As a matter of fact, even if there were access, the concern would be,
you know, has a building gone up over a mass grave, has it been concreted – you
know, turned into a parking lot?
Where – how do you preserve – I remember when you – even when – and our
commission did – was very active on this during the whole Balkan Wars issue –
the Balkan Wars, I should say – and that was – there was a loss of information
even, firsthand accounts of atrocities, never mind the finding of the people
who’ve been slaughtered, but peoples’ – you know, because there was
insufficient money being put aside to do – initiate war crimes investigations.
So what happens when you have a Russia who says no?
MS. TLISOVA: Well, actually – and that’s a very difficult question.
REP. SMITH: I’m going to leave the record until you’ve done your answer. I
will come right back as will the members as soon as the hearing – as soon as
we’re done voting. But please continue with your statement.
MS. TLISOVA: There is a human rights organization called Memorial in Russia.
They do a great job by helping people to discover the bodies of their loved
ones. And Memorial is not very much loved or favored by the Russian
government. And there is no actually job done from the Russian government side
or ever – and very little job done by the Chechen government to discover mass
graves and to punish this crime.
Also, there’s another issue. In – during the war, a lot of Chechens were
detained, and they remain in prison. And they’re still reported as missing
persons. That’s another part of the problem. I really don’t know what can be
done if – when Russian side says no. It’s a difficult question. The only – my
suggestion is probably to work to the – with – directly with the human rights
organizations in Chechnya and in Russia to support them and to help them to
organize this search for mass graves.
STAFF: Thank you, Ms. Tsilova. The congressman has three votes, and then
we’ll resume. So we’re going into temporary recess. Thanks.
REP. SMITH: The commission will resume its hearing. And I apologize profusely
for that delay. There were three votes on the House floor. Let me just as you
a question with regards to human trafficking. In 2010, we saw victim
identification drop in Europe. There are 14,650 trafficking victims found in
2009, but only 8,548 were found in 2010. In Bosnia, specifically, authorities
identified 37 trafficking victims in 2010, compared with 46 victims in 2009.
The annual TIP report, or Trafficking in Persons report, required by my
legislation, indicates that local experts report police are not using proactive
identification techniques to locate victims increasingly kept in more private
locations throughout the country. All stakeholders report a lack of clarity in
the current procedures used for identification and referral. And local experts
report multiple instances of potential victims not being recognized as such.
My question, I guess, to all of you – Mr. Bray to you as well – would you agree
with that assessment? Are we seeing any other factors? How can – have you
noticed an overall shift, perhaps, in deprioritizing the recovery of missing
MR. BRAY: From a U.S. perspective, I wouldn’t say we have any shift. I
wouldn’t say it’s been deprioritized here at all. As a matter of fact, the
Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security both have very robust
programs, specific through the FBI and ICE, on victim identification. I think
there are persistent issues that still exist with victims, particularly those
in the United States obtaining correct identification, making a positive
assessment of status. Those all play into that.
As far as Interpol and in the international community, I know that victim
identification continues to be an issue there, and it becomes part of their
training regimen and their capacity-building regimen, which we’ll see deployed
here in the near future in Central American and in partnership with the United
States government. So we’ll look to identify the weaknesses through an
assessment, and then act on those and build some capacity, and then follow that
up with an operational phase and see if we can’t help shift that a little bit.
REP. SMITH: OK, thank you.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: And I would just add that –
REP. SMITH: Could you push the – thank you.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: I would add simply that there is currently no
mechanism outside of the International Commission on Missing Persons that can
link governments and families of the missing on a global level. So if a
trafficked woman from Ukraine, for example, goes missing in another country,
there is currently no way to search for her in a way that uses genetic
information in cross-border or in a global context.
So we have a proven track record of sharing this information and – helping to
share this information in real time, online with governments and families of
this missing. So that is one – another role that ICMP is able to play today
and that hopefully will also be part of a larger, more effective international
REP. SMITH: Could you describe the joint platform for disaster victim
identification? Mr. Bray.
MR. BRAY: Essentially, there’s a proposal – a concept, if you will, between
ICMP and Interpol to establish a platform by which there’s a standing regimen
for international response. It would include creating multidisciplinary,
multinational response that has been seen and proven effective. I believe the
last deployment was Typhoon Frank in 2008. The bottom line is they’ll have to
establish international standards so it can be monitored and updated as needed,
though it will have to develop cost effective technology solutions.
Right now we have capacity when it comes to fingerprints and, to a certain
degree, odontology. However, the standards for odontology are still under
debate in the U.S. and Europe as well. But DNA – access to high-capacity
processing of DNA simply isn’t there. That’s one of those areas that I think
ICMP is leading the charge with.
And I know that Interpol is looking forward to standing up their Global Complex
for Innovation in Singapore, and making that one of the platforms for forensic
sciences there. And then, of course, training, capacity building, will become
a key portion of that strategy. But ultimately, those issues will be what
rounds out that platform. Well, that and international communications among
the member countries of Interpol to make all that work.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Masovic, has the other countries come to your Missing Persons
Institute seeking guidance and recommendations, lessons learned if you will?
MR. MASOVIC: (Through translation.) Yes. Some countries from Latin America –
REP. SMITH: I can’t hear you.
MR. MASOVIC: (Through translation.) Yes. In fact, that’s true. Some
countries from Latin America region requested our help. They recognized our
Bosnian model – so-called Bosnian model that today exists in Bosnia, that is in
fact a good way of identifying the missing persons and finding. Mostly, right
now, interested non-government-led organizations, and mostly are family members
that are involved in these non-government organizations.
This Bosnia model can be based on three main factors. And that’s
collaboration between the government and the victim’s families, then help from
the international community. As well, the forensic specialists that are
involved in the international community and helping us to identify, and not
just forensic pathologists, but many experts that are holding – giving their
hands in effort to help.
I believe that this Bosnian model can in fact be used in many different
counties – countries that are faced with natural disasters, disasters caused by
human factors or caused by genocide and war crimes.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much. Ms. Tlisova, the – Fred Cuny of Texas
disappeared in Chechnya. Are you aware as to whether or not he – any
information was ever ascertained about him? Congressman Frank Wolf, who
visited Chechnya during the second war there, asked me to ask that question.
MS. TLISOVA: Actually, I’m not aware –
REP. SMITH: OK.
MS. TLISOVA: -- of – if there were ever any information, you know, to – we
already known that he is missing. No, there was no information, unfortunately.
REP. SMITH: Let me ask Queen Noor, if I could, do you believe that there’s
sufficient prioritization within the international community on the work the
organization and the work itself? I just came back from the OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly in Vienna – just got back with some of my colleagues on the staff.
And while we all have pointed to Bosnia over the years, and the Balkans in
particular, you know, Russia still does not allow access, like in Chechnya.
You mentioned Nagorno-Karabakh, you know, these frozen conflicts where the
animosity continues unabated. I don’t think we’ve spent enough time on it, and
I would appreciate your thoughts on that, whether or not you think we do, at
the OSCE, at the European Union, and of course the U.S. government and U.N.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Clearly, the United States and those European
countries that have supported – that supported the creation of the Commission
on Missing Persons and then have partnered with us in the years since deserve,
I think, an enormous amount of credit for taking a leap of faith in an
organization that at that time was an outline, a concept, but no one, I think,
could have anticipated what it could accomplish, and that I’ve already laid out
Today, we are deeply concerned by the fact that our mission in the Balkans is,
at the moment, coming to a close in the coming year and that we are – we do not
have the funding or, as I said, the international legal status to be able to
take on the load of requests and challenges that the international community is
presenting us today.
And many of these are problems not only in Europe, but also in other parts of
the world that critically need the kind of support that we can provide – both
scientific, training, the various different forms that I described earlier – in
order to put conflicts of the past to rest on – in so many different levels –
on the personal, communal, national, and even regional basis. And I – we are
here today in part because we believe that the United States, in demonstrating
its ongoing support to us, can have an impact on a number of other countries
whose support we also need.
And, God willing, we will see a – you know, in your support and – or your
interest, which we hope will manifest itself in support –
REP. SMITH: No, it’s already there.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: – in the support of your government, that we actually
can perhaps move on to another – onto another level of operation
internationally, and continue this pioneering work that really is playing such
an important role in the international community.
REP. SMITH: We are joined by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. I’d like
to yield to my friend and colleague.
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA): Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr.
Chairman. I was just here to listen, yes.
REP. SMITH: OK. But we were talking about the hearing over on the floor, and
Ms. McMorris Rodgers pointed out she read your book, according to her.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Thank you. We – I touched upon the Western Balkans in
the book, but there’s a great deal more. And we are leaving documents from the
meeting today, in case you’re interested in any of the work of the
International Commission on Missing Persons and the other presentations here
But we’re so grateful for the interest and the opportunity that we have today
to talk about these issues that we’ve been – all of us, I think, are in
agreement – are not given the attention that they deserve, and that if given,
could probably have quite a significant impact on helping to promote stability
through more effective recovery from conflict and, God willing, prevention of
future conflict arising from the kinds of situations that missing persons, at
least, from conflict – the dynamics that that can set in place if not addressed
fully, as we have seen in the Balkans and we see today, unfortunately, in other
parts of the Middle East and Asia and even Latin America.
So we’re very grateful for the interest and support of this commission.
REP. SMITH: Let me just ask my final question. One of the other hats that I
wear is as chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights
Committee. And it takes me to Africa frequently, including to Addis, where the
African Union sits. And I’m wondering if the work of the ICMP has been sought
by the AU, the African Union, whether or not David Crane’s Sierra Leone court
used some of the expertise that you’ve developed, whether the Rwandan court,
for that matter – since obviously, they’re very similar to the Yugoslav court.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: (Off mic.)
REP. SMITH: Could you put on your –
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: So sorry, again. We haven’t been approached by the
AU, and Rwanda also, no – we haven’t been approached. We – are we providing
technical assistance to any African country?
MS.: No, not –
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Not currently. We have received requests and Rwanda
is one case. But at the moment, no, we’re not.
REP. SMITH: But that would also underscore why further –
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Absolutely.
REP. SMITH: – strengthening of your ability to do international work –
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: Absolutely.
REP. SMITH: – is all the more warranted, so that you could share that
expertise. Would any of you like to say anything before we conclude, final
comments? Been an extraordinary panel, Mr. – (inaudible) – and I want to thank
you so much. The information that you have provided will be shared very, very
widely with all of the other members, the commissioners, and will help us in
our conversations with the executive branch, especially –
MR.: (Off mic, inaudible.)
REP. SMITH: Oh, yes. Please. I yield to Ms. McMorris Rodgers.
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS: (Chuckles.) Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, I’ll just
ask a couple of questions, since we have some time here. First, to Queen Noor,
how do you see the ICMP’s work differing from the work carried out by the
International Committee of the Red Cross?
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR: We are an independent, impartial entity that is able
to, in fact, work in different arenas, especially as so much of our approach is
based on rule of law and the importance not only of science – also our emphasis
on DNA distinguishes us – but also on the ability to introduce into court
testimony, our findings, and that – which has proven to be part of the reason
we’ve been so successful, for example, in the Western Balkans.
These are both areas that – in which our work differs from any other
organization, really, and why we’ve been able to be effective at – in
demonstrating that it’s not just a humanitarian challenge, but it is a
rule-of-law and, really, government credibility challenge in so many different
countries, in helping these – the countries who we’ve worked with craft
legislation and develop rule-of-law institutions for tackling this problem.
We’ve shown how important that approach can be in generating the kind of
success which has been unprecedented.
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS: Thank you. And then to Mr. Bray, disappearances in
some countries occur without (sic) the knowledge and complicity of the very
state agencies that have access to the Interpol system. What mechanisms does
Interpol have in place to prevent such internal corruption from degrading the
overall quality of the information Interpol maintains?
MR. BRAY: Well, first off, Interpol is an organization of international law
enforcement for law enforcement. So immediately, there should be a commitment
– and I realize this sounds a little altruistic – but there should be a
commitment to honor and respect the rules under which we all agree to operate.
Having said that, there is a commission for the control of files which does
review notices that are published in contradiction to the established rules,
and certainly, the constitution of Interpol.
Having said that, Interpol constantly reviews these rules and updates them.
The last update was just now this past November at the general assembly in
Hanoi. It was approved with an overwhelming majority and will be implemented
in June. So that’ll give Interpol a greater review authority and a greater
ability to revoke those notices that fall outside of those specifications.
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS: OK, thank you. And then Fatima Tlisova from the Voice
of America, I just had a question. A direct consequence of the Russian
government shying away from its responsibility in atrocities committed during
the Chechen wars is a lack of commitment, on its part, to the identification
cause. There are no laws in place to prevent actions that seriously compromise
the identification process – construction workers building around and over
graves, for example.
In current international law, there lacks a mechanism to protect the rights of
the missing unidentified. And as a result, governments are able to block or
hinder the identification process, making it exceedingly difficult for
organizations and individuals to identify the missing. How can we begin to
develop the mechanism or legislation to address this shortcoming in the current
law? And it is feasible or it – has there ever been a movement in that
direction, and what is the progress?
MS. TLISOVA: I can start from – with an example. In the city of – (inaudible)
– there are still refrigerators from the first Chechen war, full with the
bodies of Russian soldiers, young men who were recruited by the government,
sent to Chechnya, killed, and still are not identified and sent to their
parents, their families. And they still are counted as missing. So for the
government who does not care for its own soldiers, it is very difficult to
believe that it’s going to care for the other part, for the victims which it
considered at the time as enemies, and for their – especially for the combatant
So in my view, if this bill will be passed and the commission will be granted
the status probably – the immunity to be a global commission, with the
possibility to access without government restrictions to any place, probably
like Red Cross or other organizations, that would be a solution. The other
part is to – as I said before, to deal directly, to contact to the
nongovernment – to the nongovernment channels and to help people on the ground
who try to be involved.
And also, there is a lack of personnel, a lack of finances, corruption – all
together, all these problems create, you know, a major inability for the
Russians, that maybe a lack of will to solve this problem. So my suggestion is
to raise probably – to create an international organization probably to grant
this commission access to the area without permission from the local
governments, or to work directly with – and through internal channels.
REP. RODGERS: Thank you. And it was great just to have the chance to hear
some. I appreciate everything that you all are doing all around the world on
this issue. Thanks.
REP. SMITH: We have three minutes to vote, so the hearing’s adjourned. Thank
you so very much for your extraordinary –