On behalf of the ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People, the University of Warsaw and the University
of Warmia and Mazury, we would like to invite you to the international conference Legal and social aspects of search for missing persons that will take place on 17th -18th Nov 2021. The conference will be interpreted into English. Please find attached the agenda.
The conference will comprise three sessions:
- Legal and institutional aspects of search for missing persons
- Methods and procedures of search and identification of unknown persons and corpses
- Search for missing persons – cooperation between state agencies and NGOs
Each session will consist of presentations by Polish and foreign speakers and will be concluded with a discussion. Conference participants will have an opportunity to learn the results of studies conducted in the framework of the GOSPOSTRATEG – a strategic research and development programme ‘Social and economic development of Poland
in globalizing markets’ of the National Centre for Research and Development.
17th Nov 2021
11:00 – Opening of the conference, Alicja Tomaszewska, President of the ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People
Session I – Legal and institutional aspects of search for missing persons
11:15 – prof. Ewa Gruza, Chair of Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw,
“Proposed model of search for missing persons in Poland.”
11:45 – Maciej Duda PhD, Chair of Criminology and Criminal Policy, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn,
“Criminological and victimological perspectives on disappearances.”
12:15 – prof. Javier Guardiola García, Departament de Dret penal Facultat de Dret Universitat de Valencia,
“Missing People in Spain: an approach to the problem and intervention priorities.“
12:30 – prof. Jan Kralik, Department of international law, European Law and Legal Communication Faculty of Law Matej Bel University in Banská Bystric
“Investigation of missing persons and the use of computer data.“
12:45 – Craig Collie PhD, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Portsmouth,
“A Balance of Rights – Legal and Institutional Aspects of Searching for Missing People.”
13:00 – Discussion
13:15 – Closure of Session I
Session II – Methods and procedures of search and identification of unknown persons and corpses
13:30 – prof. Denis Sołodow, Chair of Criminology and Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury
“Procedural aspects of the search for missing persons.”
13:45 – prof. Ireneusz Sołtyszewski, Chair of Criminology and Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury
“Contemporary methods to identify unknown persons and corpses.“
14:00 – subinsp. Mirosław Kaczmarek, Missing Persons Search Centre National Police Headquarter
“International cooperation of experts in the search for missing people – establishment of the PEN-MP expert group.”
14:15 – Anna Jurga, M.A., Administrator of the DNA Data Set Registry, Biology Department of the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police
“Forensic database use in unknown person and corpse identification.”
14:30 – Łukasz Świtaj, Technical Project Manager, YND Consult GmbH
“Process of software development and part of the functions of ITAKA’s New IT System (NSI) implemented under the Gospostrateg project.”
14:45 – Felicity Sackville Northcott, PhD Director, Global Missing Children’s Center International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children
“The role of ICMEC in the search for missing kids and the GMCNgine.”
15:00 – prof. Maciej Trzciński, Chair of Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Wrocław
“Methods of searching for hidden corpses.”
15:15 – Ewa Pachura, PhD, State University of Applied Sciences in Elbląg,
“Missing person case – between criminal investigation and operational work.”
15:30 – Discussion
15:45 – Closure of the first day of the conference
18th Nov 2021
Session III – Search for missing persons – cooperation between state agencies and NGOs
10:15 – Piotr Lewulis, PhD, Chair of Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw
“Models of cooperation between states and NGOs in the search for missing persons in the light of legal and comparative studies.”
10:45 – Agata Nowacka, team coordinator, Search and Identification Department ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People
“International cooperation in search for missing persons.”
11:00 – Jasmina Kurbasic, Head of Legal Unit International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP)
“Effective missing persons processes and the role of families and civil society organizations (CSOS).“
11:15 – Aagje Ieven, Secretary General at Missing Children Europe
“Can the EU cooperation make a difference?”
11:30 – Marta Pytel, Help Centre Belgium
“How Polish people living abroad can help in searching for missing persons.”
11:45 – Discussion
12:00 – Closure of the conference
prof. Jan Kralik, Department of international law, European Law and Legal Communication Faculty of Law Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica
prof. dr hab. Ewa Gruza, Chair of Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw
prof. Javier Guardiola Garcia, Departament de Dret penal Facultat de Dret Universitat de Valencia
prof. Ewa Guzik-Makaruk, Department of Criminal Law, Faculty of Law, University of Białystok
Ewa Klonowski, PhD retired researcher of the Missing Persons Institute Bosna and Hercegovina, Sarajevo (BiH)
prof. Henryk Malewski, Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius
prof. Wiesław Pływaczewski, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn
prof. Ireneusz Sołtyszewski, Chair of Criminology and Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury
prof. Maciej Trzciński, Chair of Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Wrocław
Alicja Tomaszewska, M.A., ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People
Izabela Świergiel, M.A., ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People
Elżbieta Kowalska, M.A., ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People
Biographies and abstracts
Prof. Ewa Gruza
Ewa Gruza is a professor in the Forensic Science Department at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warsaw. She specialises in forensic science, law of evidence, and forensic psychology. Her scientific interests include forensic tactics, the law of evidence, the use of forensic psychology in the criminal process and forensic science, the theory of opinionating and broadly understood police issues. She is the author of over 120 articles, 15 monographs and scientific editors of monographs, an originator and scientific co-editor of 25 editions of a periodical Problemy Współczesnej Kryminalistyki (Issues of Contemporary Forensic Science). Twice her works have been awarded in the prestigious Tadeusz Hanausk competition organised by the Polish Forensic Association for the best work on forensic science.
“Proposed model of search for missing persons in Poland“
The Polish legal solutions currently applicable to missing person search can hardly be called a system. Unfortunately, they are neither comprehensive nor effective. A key factor determining quick finding of a missing person is the adoption of appropriate measures, including immediate initiation of search and rescue operations not only by the Police, but also by other entities, including search and rescue groups, in situations of real danger to the life and health of the missing person. One of the main tasks in building an effective system is to determine the legal definition of the missing person, the obligations of the state in the search process and rules of cooperation with the external environment. There is an urgent need to regulate information exchange, access to databases and obligations imposed on those who report disappearances. These issues should be regulated by law (e.g. by the amended Act on the Police or a separate law dedicated to this issue) that would be binding for all entities – the government, local authorities and private entities – with specific solutions determined in executive acts. The proposed legal solutions have been divided into two groups: solutions that could be implemented without significant changes to the current system and those that would require a different approach and a change of the search paradigm.
Maciej Duda, PhD
Assistant professor at the Department of Criminology and Criminal Policy, the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn. In 2015, he defended his doctoral thesis on “Hate crimes. Legal and criminological study”, written under the scientific direction of Prof. Wiesław Pływaczewski. The main area of his scientific interest are crimes against cultural heritage. Maciej Duda is an author of over 70 scientific publications, scientific editor of 3 collective monographs and reviewer of “Kortowski Przegląd Prawniczy”, “Problemy Społeczne”, “Biuletyn Kryminologiczny” and “Opolskie Studia Administracyjno-Prawne” scientific journals. He is a member of the European Society of Criminology and the Polish Society of Criminology and an expert of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the European Crime Prevention Network.
“Criminological and victimological perspectives on disappearances”
The presentation will give a criminological picture of the phenomenon of missing persons in Poland. The analysis will be based on the results of research carried out under the GOSPOSTRATEG grant “Development of a system of legal, institutional and IT solutions to improve search and identification of missing people and to support their beloved ones” by the research team of the Department of Criminology and Forensic Science of the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn. The causes of the phenomenon of disappearances (etiology), its symptomatic forms (phenomenology) and the possibilities of prevention (counteracting) will be presented. Furthermore, legal, institutional and social solutions related to the phenomenon will be discussed as well as the relationship between disappearances and other criminal phenomena.
prof. Javier Guardiola García
Javier Guardiola-García is Associate Professor (Profesor Titular) of Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Valencia, where he develops research, teaching and academic management tasks (he is currently Vice Dean of the Faculty of Law). He has exercised jurisdictional functions, is a member of the Associations of Lawyers and Criminologists, has directed doctoral theses and is the author of various publications. More info at www.uv.es/Javier.Guardiola/cv.wiki
“Missing People in Spain: an approach to the problem and intervention priorities”
Missing Person cases imply an important problem that cannot be dissociated from the importance of promptly addressing cases in which early assistance can prevent great damage, and that should not neglect the connections of some disappearances with criminal activities. All this being true in ordinary circumstances, it should be emphasized that in extraordinary circumstances the investigation and identification of disappeared persons acquires singular relevance. Major catastrophes or accidents with large numbers of victims require effectiveness, because the early location of the victims is vital to enable rescues, and because the effective identification of deceased victims is not only useful for the authorities but also necessary for the families of the victims. On the other hand, it is also a justice requirement to identify the victims that authoritarian regimes make disappear, without it being admissible – not even to facilitate the transition to democratic regimes – to obliterate those who disappeared and condemn their beloved ones to uncertainty and silence.
prof. Jan Kralik
Jan Kralik is the vice-dean for the international relations, development and marketing at the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica. He is also Assistant Professor of the Department of International law, European law and legal communication. The focus of his research is international criminal law and international human rights law.
Jan Kralik has more than 7 years of experience working for various government institutions. From 2014 to 2020 he worked for International Law Department, Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic. In 2016, during the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union, he chaired the 21st Meeting of The European Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. From 2017 to 2020 he was the Slovak Representative to the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention Committee and participated in the negotiations of the Second Additional Protocol to Cybercrime Convention.
“Investigation of missing persons and the use of computer data”
The paper examines the domestic legal and institutional framework in the Slovak Republic which enables Slovak law enforcement officials to conduct investigations of missing persons. The main framework may be found in the Act no. 171/1993 Coll. on Police Force. A focus will be paid to the possibilities enabling law enforcement officials to detect traffic and location data concerning the missing person and use of information and communication systems in Slovakia.
Relevant international legal framework including International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance will also be mentioned. Particular attention is further drawn to emerging international framework dealing with international cooperation involving missing persons when acquisition of electronic data may substantially contribute to solve the cases involved missing persons. Some considerations regarding de lege ferenda are made relating to the adoption of the Second Additional Protocol to the Cybercrime Convention.
Craig Collie, PhD
Craig is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Portsmouth. His main research interests focus on Missing People, with an emphasis on the subject of child abduction. His research also emphasises Search and Rescue, with a particular interest in Lowland search teams and how they interact with their role. He is currently coordinator for Missing Persons:Issues and Investigation, one of the only taught provisions focusing on missing persons as an academic subject. Prior to joining academia, Craig was a Special Constable in Scotland, and was later self-employed as a Private Investigator. Outside the University, Craig is a volunteer Search Technician with Hampshire Search and Rescue.
“A Balance of Rights – Legal and Institutional Aspects of Searching for Missing People”
‘Missingness’ can have many meanings. Determining who counts as missing has been challenging, with states providing broad, often vague definitions, while academics (Payne, 1995; Biehal et al, 2003) insist that missingness is a label, potentially even a harmful one (see Parr et al, 2015).
Difficulties in understanding missingness raises several legal and human rights tensions that arise when state machinery engages to enable the search for someone who is missing, which this paper will explore.
First, tensions arise given that search duties generally fall to the police- an agency associated with crime control- even though being missing is not itself a criminal act. Second, we consider the potential that searches impinge on individual rights to self-determine, while also potentially infringing rights to privacy as personal, identifying information and news reports leave long-lasting digital footprints. Finally, we will consider what happens when perspectives of state and corporate interest become entangled with going missing, inquiring into the merit of arguments that the mechanisms for handling missing persons shift to benefit high level rather than human interest (Collie, 2019).
prof. Denis Sołodow
Denis Solodov, Professor at UWM since January 2011. He is the author of over 100 publications in Polish, Russian and English, including several forensic commentaries to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Criminal Code of Russia. As a researcher at the Faculty of Law of the State University of Voronezh, Russia (2000-2011), he combined teaching with legal practice by participating in criminal, civil and administrative cases and in proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He holds a scientific title “Docent in the Department of Forensic Science” granted by the State Higher Attestation Commission (Russian – ВАК) under the Ministry of Higher Education of Russia in 2010. Habilitated at the Faculty of Law of the University of Bialystok in 2013. (“Evaluation of scientific evidence in the system of Russian forensic science”). In 2014 he was awarded the Prof. B. Holyst Prize for the Best Scientific Work in Criminalistics. Since 2011 a member of the Polish Forensic Association. He has promoted four PhDs in Poland and was a reviewer in seven doctoral theses. Tutor of the Student Scientific Association of Forensic Science since June 2011. Co-author of a blog on forensic and digital issues solodov.pl
“Procedural aspects of the search for missing persons”
The police search for missing persons is carried out following the systematically updated decrees of the Police Commander in Chief, which define the methods and forms of the search as well as the procedures to be followed regarding the persons with unknown identity or unknown human remains. The form of search activities depends on the so-called level of search to which the missing person has been qualified. In the beginning, police activities focus on organizing the penetration of the area of the last known whereabouts of a missing person, places where such a person may have been or where there may be traces related to the disappearance. The authors analyze the organizational aspects and methodological procedures of the search for missing persons.
prof. Ireneusz Sołtyszewski
Ireneusz Sołtyszewski, PhD, professor at the Department of Criminology and Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, assistant professor at the Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical University of Warsaw. His scientific interests focus, inter alia, on the use of modern forensic technologies and medical-forensic methods in the examination of biological traces and identification of persons, corpses and human remains. Ireneusz Sołtyszewski is an author and co-author of over 150 scientific publications. He presented his papers at over 50 national and international conferences.
“Contemporary methods to identify unknown persons and corpses”
The identification of unknown persons and corpses has an interdisciplinary nature. First of all, it is the subject of interest of forensic science and forensic medicine. Most of the methods used for corpse identification consist in comparing group and individualising characteristics found post mortem with those of the subject, documented ante mortem. In case of genetic studies, the comparative material may be a blood sample or an oral swab taken from a family member. Only in the anthroposcopic analysis, the deceased person appearance reconstruction does not use any comparative material. As a result, a number of characteristic personal features should be determined to facilitate identification of a person or a corpse. The identity is defined by: first and second name, date and place of birth, names of parents (mother’s maiden name), gender and, e.g. genetic profile or finger prints. It should also be emphasised that it is not always possible to identify an unknown person or corpse, e.g. due to the circumstances of the discovery of the person or corpse or absence of family and relatives of the living or deceased person.
superint. Mirosław Kaczmarek
A police officer with 29 years of experience, since 2013 an officer of the Search and Identification Department of the Criminal Bureau of the National Police Headquarters. A graduate of the University of Łódź – Master of Administration. In 2008 – 2013, Police Liaison Officer at Europol. Co-creator of the Child Alert system in Poland. Member of the Network of Police Experts – PEN-MP Associate teacher at the Police School in Piła – a lecturer and instructor.
“International cooperation of experts in the search for missing people – establishment of the PEN-MP expert group”
The talk will present the history of international cooperation among experts on missing person searches over the last few years, culminating in the creation of the PEN-MP expert group recognised by the working group of the Council of the European Union.
Anna Jurga, M.A.
Anna Jurga is a graduate of the Biology Department of the University of Białystok. In 2014, she completed postgraduate studies in Evidence Law at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Since 2015, she has been acting as the Administrator of the DNA data set registry maintained by the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police. Among other things, she is responsible for processing personal data in the DNA data set in accordance with GDPR and regulations on personal data protection in connection to criminal offences. She participates in legislative work concerning the development and operation of the Polish DNA data filing system. She also performs tasks related to running the Technical Contact Point for international exchange of DNA profiles on the basis of the Prum Decision. Anna conducts DNA data set trainings for police officers from investigation and criminal divisions and forensic technicians.
“Forensic database use in unknown person and corpse identification”
Forensic databases, situated on the borderline between science and law, are designed to collect and process information for law enforcement and judicial authorities whose task is to prevent and combat crime. Such databases are now considered an integral and increasingly important tool for the police and are used not only in the fight against crime but also in the search for missing persons and identification of human remains, persons of unknown identity and those attempting to conceal their identity. Legal changes that took place in 2014 opened the way for the Polish police to effectively identify unknown human remains and facilitated search for missing persons. Dactyloscopy, anthropology and odontology identification methods are now supplemented with genetic testing. DNA profile registration in the DNA data set makes it possible to solve cases that have remained unexplained for decades.
Technical Project Manager focused on value maximisation. In projects, I assume the role of the Product Owner (PSM II) and Scrum Master (PSM I). I believe that short time-to-market and learning based on previously made hypotheses are the main growth engines. I like challenges and do not fear questioning the status quo. As a student of engineering at the Technical University of Warsaw I was a member of the BEST students’ organisation on behalf of which I had the opportunity to co-organise the second edition of the BEST Hacking League – the biggest hackathon for Technical University students at that time.
In my free time I deal with calisthenics and stock exchange.
“Process of software development and part of the functions of ITAKA’s New IT System (NSI) implemented under the Gospostrateg project”
YND will present the software development process and some of the functions of the New ITAKA Information System (NSI) implemented under the Gospostrateg project. The system description included in the ToR was broken down into individual requirements that could be implemented by the development team in two-week iterations. Major parts of the system were presented at joint meetings. Client’s feedback and improvement suggestions were collected. The following parts of the system will be presented:
- the case and its structure composed of tasks and statuses, where each task triggers an event in the activity history to maintain all actions related to it
- management of tasks, deadlines and the concept of “Task Pool” and “My Tasks” allow volunteers to easily find out information on the next task for them
- alerts to keep track of sensitive issues.
Felicity Sackville Northcott, PhD
Felicity Sackville Northcott, PhD: Director of the Global Missing Children’s Issues came to ICMEC after 13 years with International Social Service-USA branch. Dr. Northcott holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Northcott has expertise in a range of international child welfare treaties and issues including international adoption, international abduction, and international case management. She also has extensive knowledge about domestic child protection protocols, practices, and legislation in the United States. Dr. Northcott has trained hundreds of social workers, lawyers, and judges on their roles in cross border child protection cases.
“The role of ICMEC in the search for missing kids and the GMCNgine”
ICMEC has created best practice guidance on the development of protocols for the implementation of response mechanisms, Amber Alert, and photo dissemination. In addition, we support the cooperation of law enforcement and non-governmental organizations to develop the capacity to implement these best practices. ICMEC is also the developer of the GMCNgine which is the world’s largest missing child alerting system and it utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence to scour billions of on-line images to help get leads on missing kids. It also has the capacity to utilize date/time/place/radius technology to find pictures of the area a child was last seen in. The GMCNgine combines facial recognition, case management, creation and dissemination of missing posters, distribution of alerts across agencies. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the best practice guidelines and the GMCNgine.
prof. Maciej Trzciński
Maciej Trzciński – holder of a postdoctoral degree in law, professor at the Chair of Forensic Science at the Faculty of Law, Administration and Economics, University of Wroclaw; forensic scientist and archaeologist, member of the Scientific Council of the Polish Forensic Association, manager of the Postgraduate Studies in Forensic Science and the Interdepartmental Postgraduate Studies in Forensic Archaeology, author of numerous publications on forensic science and forensic archaeology.
“Methods of searching for hidden corpses.”
Ewa Pachura, PhD
Ewa Pachura is a doctor of law. She received her degree from the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warmia and Mazury in 2019. She wrote her thesis on “Tactics of establishing the material truth in cases of improvised homicides and suicides”, addressing, among other things, the issue of homicides masked by a missing person report.
She worked as a Police Officer from 1993 to 2020. For six years she supervised the most serious preparatory proceedings in the Pomeranian Province, holding the position of Head of the Investigation Department of the Provincial Police Headquarters in Gdańsk. Her last years of service were spent as Deputy Chief of Provincial Police Headquarters in Gdańsk. Apart from theoretical knowledge, she has extensive practical experience related to handling crime scenes. She worked in the first Pomeranian team for undiscovered murders called “Archives X” and in 2005 she detected the murder of the “Pharmacist” after 16 years, leading to the arrest and conviction of 3 perpetrators.
She currently shares her knowledge with students by working as a lecturer.
“Missing person case – between criminal investigation and operational wor”
Missing person search cases are managed by operation and intelligence units. Nevertheless, it is not a typical form of operational work as it is carried out openly. The current legislation on the police search for a missing person allows for the preservation of traces and evidence relating to the incident, but does not indicate how this is to be done. The person that informs the authorities is not instructed about the obligation to tell the truth and shall not be liable to prosecution if the information provided is false. In practice, a search for a person may be conducted in parallel with a pre-trial investigation, if there are grounds for initiating such an investigation. In addition to the use of technical search support measures and telecommunications arrangements, covert operational and exploratory activities may be carried out independently in the case of a suspected offence. However, it becomes problematic when search activities alone are insufficient and have to be implemented.
Piotr Lewulis, PhD
Assistant professor at the Department of Forensic Science, Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warsaw since 2020, and previously a research assistant at the same Faculty. Graduate of the Master’s degree in Law (Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw, 2014) and doctoral studies. In 2019 he obtained a doctoral degree in social sciences in the discipline of legal sciences based on the thesis entitled. “Digital evidence – forensic theory and practice in Polish criminal proceedings”. His thesis was accepted with honours by the Scientific Council of the Institute of Criminal Law, Faculty of Law, University of Warsaw. Piotr is a winner of the Polish Forensic Association awards in the 16th and 21st editions of the Prof. T. Hanausk Competition for the “Thesis of the Year” in the field of forensic science.
He gained practical knowledge and experience in the application of law by completing his legal training at the Bar Association in Warsaw in 2018. He took – with a positive result – the professional bar exam.
He has co-implemented numerous nationally and internationally funded research projects related to, among others, the methodology of homicide investigations, methods of verifying the competence of expert witnesses, counter-terrorism against lone perpetrators, and the search for missing persons. He has conducted his own research projects related to the analysis of judicial practice regarding the use of digital evidence.
Currently, in his academic and research activity, he focuses on analysis of broadly understood manifestations of social pathology in the digital space: from cybercrime to proliferation of false information and conspiracy narratives.
He is involved in didactic work at the Faculty of Law and Administration and the Centre for Forensic Sciences at the University of Warsaw. During the Forensic Science exercises or “Moot Court: Criminal mock trial” workshops he strives to integrate theoretical knowledge with practice. As a lecturer of the Open University of the University of Warsaw he was awarded several times with the Rector’s prize for the best lecturers.
“Models of cooperation between states and NGOs in the search for missing persons in the light of legal and comparative studies”
Disappearances of persons are multi-factorial events and some of them, due to their course or unique circumstances, are beyond the scope of state authority. For a variety of reasons – well-founded or otherwise – public services in various countries carry out search operations only to a certain extent, relying more or less on cooperation with NGOs. However, just as there is no single universal disappearance “model”, there is also no single internationally accepted model for cooperation between state services and NGOs. Forms of cooperation, legal empowerment, scope of competences and activities undertaken in different countries by specialised NGOs are very different.
Based on a comparative analysis of legal standards for missing person search applied in 17 European and non-European countries, several different models of cooperation between the state and NGOs can be outlined, e.g. systemic cooperation, transfer of competences, friendly cooperation, but also those where the role of the NGO is marginalised by the state.
Agata has been associated with the ITAKA Foundation for 11 years. She coordinates the Search and Identification Team and supports families and relatives of missing persons. Agata graduated from the Institute of Psychology at the Academy of Special Education. As a speaker she participates in conferences and trainings addressed to institutions professionally involved in the search for missing persons.
“International cooperation in search for missing persons”
The experience of the ITAKA Foundation shows that the number of Poles missing abroad, as well as foreigners in Poland, is steadily growing. In international searches, the Foundation cooperates with the police, consular posts, Polish media, NGOs, state institutions and representatives of local communities. These activities are also complemented by cooperation involving mutual training, conferences, as well as informal exchange of knowledge.
As a lawyer with an LL.M. degree in International Legal Studies, I have an extensive work experience in the field of Public International Law, Human Rights and Rule of Law. Being engaged with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) for the last nine years I’ve been directly involved in all aspects of the missing persons process globally.
ICMP is a treaty based intergovernmental organization with the mandate to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, human rights abuses, natural and man-made disasters and other involuntary reasons and to assist them in doing so. It also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.
As the only international organization that is exclusively tasked to address the issue of missing persons, ICMP is actively engaged in developing institutions and civil society capacity, promoting legislation, fostering social and political advocacy, and developing and providing technical expertise in the process of locating the missing.
“Effective missing persons processes and the role of families and civil society organizations (CSOS)”
The primary responsibility to investigate missing persons cases lies with states. Failure to investigate the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in an effective way, including the circumstances of their disappearance, can constitute a continuing breach of fundamental human rights of both the missing persons and their family members.
An essential component of a successful process for accounting for the missing is the active participation of families of the missing and civil society organizations (CSOs) in all its phases. This includes provision of information, receiving information, decision making, monitoring, commemoration, receiving reparations and participation in judicial processes.
In fulfilling its obligations, the state needs to gain the participation and trust of persons affected. The important human right in this regard is the right to privacy which has far-reaching implications for missing persons processes.
The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) as an intergovernmental organization supports effective and sustainable processes to account for missing and disappeared persons around the world, working with governments, judicial authorities, forensic agencies, CSOs and families of the missing.
Aagje Ieven is Secretary General at Missing Children Europe, where she is responsible for the strategic development and day-to-day management of the organization. She has a background in Health (Bachelor, Leuven 1998) and Political Philosophy (Master, Leuven, and Nijmegen, 2002). She has close to twenty years of experience in research and policy analysis on human rights in Europe and has worked for a number of EU civil society organisations advocating for the rights and wellbeing of children and their families. She coordinated a campaign for the rights of children in vulnerable situations and managed a European membership network supporting families affected by mental health issues. At Missing Children Europe she established a research and training programme on runaways, the largest category of missing children, and led the advocacy on the new EU Child Rights Strategy.
“Can the EU cooperation make a difference?”
Missing Children Europe is the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children connecting 31 grassroot organisations in 26 countries across Europe. We are all committed to the same goals: to prevent children from going missing, and to protect children from any violence, abuse or exploitation that leads to or results from them going missing.
Each year over 250,000 children slip through the net in the European Union. Children go missing for a wide range of reasons, including conflict, violence, abuse, and exploitation.
We work with professionals who assist missing children, children at risk of going missing and their families. We support them to better protect and empower children through research, training, advocacy and awareness, facilitating exchange and cross-border cooperation. We coordinate the network of 116000 missing children hotlines, and the Cross-Border Family Mediators network. In all these ways we contribute to more effective, holistic and integrated child protection systems across Europe.
Marta Pytel, trained as a lawyer in Belgian law, since 2012 has been involved in social assistance for the Polish community in Belgium and since 2020 in large-scale assistance projects of the Help Centre Belgium association. In the association she deals with legal issues, offers free legal and administrative support, coordinates projects and volunteering initiatives.
“How Polish people living abroad can help in searching for missing persons”
The presentation reviews possibilities of the Help Centre Belgium association and solutions that might facilitate search for missing Poles abroad. At the end, the role that can be played by Polish organisations in initiating the search for missing compatriots outside their homeland will be discussed.
Known among the Polish community as Help Staff Belgium, HCB is a multi-sector organisation energised by Poles living in Belgium. Since its launch in March 2020, we have gathered over 150 participants in 27 social projects, aimed mainly at material and administrative assistance to the homeless, Polish families in poverty and people in crisis (detained by the police, seeking legal defence, etc.).