Millions in never-ending vigil to bury their dead

Nameless migrants laid to rest in unmarked scrubland, murder victims dumped in mass graves, desperate searches for the missing after natural disasters. Around the world, millions of families wait in vain to bury their dead.

"You cannot close the book on the life of a loved one if you do not know the truth, or what the reasons were, why people went missing," said Salvadoran diplomat Augustin Vasquez Gomez

His country, where some 8,000 people are still missing after years of civil war, has become one of the latest nations to sign a treaty pledging to support the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons

In the Philippines, also a signatory to the treaty, there are still 2,000 missing after Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013.

And while finding and identifying the missing killed in conflicts or disasters is an age-old problem, no overall global figure has ever been determined.

The numbers are thought to be "staggering"-between 250,000 and a million in Iraq alone stretching back to the early days of the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein, said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP director general.

The organization, which finances its painstaking research through voluntary donations, held a recent seminar on its work as it moves its headquarters from Sarajevo to The Hague.

Born out of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia and set up in 1996 by then US president Bill Clinton, the ICMP has used sophisticated DNA matching techniques to identify more than 70 percent of the 40,000 who went missing in the Balkans wars.

Now it is shedding its ad-hoc status to become a recognized international organization-the only one dedicated exclusively to accounting for the missing.

It hopes to open a new lab in the Dutch city in the coming months, to complement its first one in Sarajevo which already has the capacity to handle up to 10,000 DNA cases a year.

Demand is growing. And as the conflicts in Syria and Iraq feed a new wave of refugees, hundreds of whom have perished at sea lacking any kind of documents, a new challenge is emerging.

After five years of civil war and a huge exodus from the country, there are an estimated 60,000 missing Syrians

Source: The Standard