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The ICRC and the missing

31-12-2002 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 848, by Marco Sassòli, Marie-Louise Tougas

This article describes the humanitarian issues and dilemmas faced by the ICRC in dealing with missing persons. It is argued that full respect of the rules of international humanitarian law is the best way of preventing disappearances and alleviating the concerns of families of relatives unaccounted for. Examples of past ICRC practice are analysed with a view to advocating development and systematisation of ICRC activities in respect of missing persons.

   

Marco Sassòli and Marie-Louise Touga,
Marco Sassòli is a professor and Marie-Louise Tougas is a research assistant at the Faculty of Political Science and Law of the University of Quebec in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This article is based on internal and public ICRC documents and interviews with ICRC staff. 
   
Abstract 
 This article describes humanitarian issues and dilemmas faced by the ICRC in dealing with persons unaccounted for during and after armed co nflict. It gives a short overview of the relevant rules of international humanitarian law and emphasizes the respect of legal obligations to prevent disappearance and separation and to alleviate the plight of families of missing persons. Best practice in the field of conflict-related disappearances would be respect of the law. Raising awareness of international humanitarian law, cooperating with the belligerents, assisting them to respect their obligations and acting as neutral intermediary between them in view of facilitating compliance are the main functions of the ICRC in this regard. As belligerents often do not respect or sometimes even distort their obligations, the institution frequently has to substitute itself in fulfilling their duties. The article shows practical examples and proposes systematisation and development of ICRC activities related to the missing issue.  
   
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