Libya gets equipment, cash donation to intensify search for missing persons


The South Korean government has donated four special utility vehicles, a mobile laboratory and DNA testing equipment to the Libyan Ministry for the Affairs of the Families of the Martyrs and Missing Persons (MFMM) for deployment in the search and identification of thousands of people who went missing during the civil war in 2011.

The donation was made in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated in April and signed in December last year between the two countries, in which South Korea pledged to donate equipment towards the search and identification of missing persons, use Korean expertise to build a DNA test laboratory and train Libyan staff and experts in advanced search methods using the new equipment.

The donation, which also includes two buses, one all-terrain truck and US$7 million, was handed over to representatives of the MFMM in Tripoli by South Korean ambassador to Libya Lee Jong-Kook. The equipment kit also includes special excavation and identification technology to be used in the search for missing persons, most of whom are believed to have been killed and buried in mass graves by both government forces and rebel militias during the war, which raged between February and October 2011.

The handover was witnessed by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), international donors and local organisations involved in the search for people who went missing during the armed revolt, now known in Libya as the 17th February Revolution. As part of the bi-lateral co-operation agreement, seven South Korean experts specialising in forensic investigation have been providing training, expert advice and assistance to the MFMM since July last year.

The construction of the DNA testing laboratory centre in Tripoli is expected to start soon. The donation came as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners from mine action groups pledged to provide more support to the Libyan Ministry of Education in expanding a school-based programme meant to raise awareness on the dangers posed by landmines and other unexploded ordnance.

The programme, which was launched in October last year, is aimed at incorporating mines and weapons risk education into the mainstream school curriculum by tutoring an inaugural nationwide intake of 250 teachers into ‘Master Trainers’ on weapons awareness education. Upon graduation, the ‘Master Trainers’ will be deployed to the provinces where they will expand the programme by training more local teachers on weapons risk education until all schools across the country are covered.

Implemented by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education in conjunction with anti-mine group Handicap International, the project hopes to prevent injuries and save lives from unexploded ordnance by teaching children to identify and avoid playing with weapons and remnants of war. The participating partners have also collaborated in designing a training kit for classroom use in teaching children about the dangers posed by mines and unexploded ordnance.

Up to 10 000 Libyans disappeared under the Gaddafi regime and thousands involved in the revolution remain unaccounted for.