Investigating Disappeared Individuals

Investigating disappeared individuals involves collecting a wide range of information. This includes medical and family history, nicknames or political aliases, recreational and social activities, and other personal details.


The status of a missing person (living or dead) determines the complexity of the search and identification process. This is especially true in situations of large-scale events such as disasters, conflict, migration and OSV.

Identifying the missing person

The identification of disappeared persons is a complex process that requires various types of resources and strategies. For example, investigators can contact the person’s friends and family members to gather information on his or her whereabouts. They can also monitor social media for clues to the missing person’s location. Additionally, they can check the person’s financial transactions. This can provide clues to the missing person’s whereabouts and help investigators build a timeline of activities.

There are many reasons why a person may disappear, from accidental hiking to mental health issues like Alzheimer’s. However, the vast majority of people who disappear in conflict-related contexts are male civilians, while sex traffickers connected to global organized crime disproportionately target women and children. In some cases, the disappearance is an intentional act by the missing person. In this type of situation, the victim’s wish to remain anonymous and not be found should be respected.

To make the search for a missing person more effective, investigators should consider all relevant factors. These include: the status and geo-temporal mobility of the person; comparison criteria (including nicknames, political aliases, social and recreational activities); exploitation of non-explicit relationships between the sought person and other persons; and mapping of sites where human remains are located (in case of death). Furthermore, the investigation of disappeared individuals must take into account the complexity of the context in which they occurred.

Identifying the suspects

Disappearances occur worldwide, whether perpetrated by government officials or by armed non-state actors. They can affect all people, but those who are most vulnerable are human rights defenders, relatives of disappeared persons, and lawyers. These individuals are often targeted by the state because they can challenge its authority and expose its abuses. They are also frequently victims of enforced disappearance, which is a crime under international law.

Investigation of a disappearance involves many steps, including identifying the suspects, examining physical evidence, and mapping sites that may contain human remains. These procedures require a significant amount of time and resources, especially in complex cases. Moreover, it is important to ensure that the families are properly involved in this process. This includes ensuring that they are regularly informed about the progress of the operation.

One key step is characterization, or building up a profile of the missing person based on the circumstances surrounding their disappearance. This can help investigators determine which group the person belongs to and which location they might be in. This information can then be used to prioritize search and recovery activities.

Another step is to systematically collect, document and record (preferably in a central database) all the information related to an unidentified missing person. This should be done before the actual forensic intervention aimed at finding the individual and/or his or her body.

Identifying the location of the missing person

The location of a missing person is important for the investigation. Police need to know where the person was last seen, and if possible, the date of their disappearance. This information will help police locate the missing person quickly and efficiently. It is also useful to know whether the person has a phone, so that they can be reached if needed.

Several types of missing persons exist, from children who wander away from school to adults who vanish intentionally or as a result of criminal activity. Each type of disappearance has a different impact on the people who search for them. For example, the absence of a body can put families in legal limbo, because they cannot access bank accounts or settle estates without a death certificate. It can also cause financial strain, as they may need to hire private investigators or take time off work.

If a family of a missing person wants to find them, they should start by calling local news outlets and asking them to report on the case. Often, local news stations will run the story, which can spread the word and increase the chances of finding the missing person. Additionally, families can post fliers in their home town or at places the person frequented. Fliers should include a photograph of the person, and if possible, a detailed description of their appearance.

Identifying the cause of the missing person

The identification process involves the comparison of lines of evidence gathered from different sources (biological and social data). These information should be integrated, reconciled, and analysed in a holistic or joint manner. It should also take into account the weight or individualizing power of each data set for a particular case. The results of these processes are then submitted in investigative reports to the appropriate legal or judicial authority.

Several methods are available for identifying missing persons, including DNA testing and fingerprinting. However, this process is complicated and time-consuming. Moreover, it is expensive and requires extensive forensic resources. It is crucial to involve families in this process, especially in the early stages of the investigation. This will help to ensure that all relevant information is gathered and the operation is conducted in a transparent way.

In addition, the family members of missing persons should be involved as repositories of information and be given adequate support throughout the operation. This will respect their right to know the fate of their loved ones. However, it is important to understand that some families may be afraid to testify in front of the investigators. This is why it is essential to provide adequate funding and ensure that the operation is carried out by professionals. Moreover, it is important to build a strong partnership with local and regional human rights bodies.