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Kuwait-Iraq: still missing since the 1990-1991 Gulf War

16-06-2010 Feature

Today, hundreds of Kuwaitis and Iraqis are still missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War. To support efforts to find and recover their remains, and inform families about their missing loved ones, the ICRC and the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission responsible for addressing this issue organized the second technical meeting for forensic technicians.

   
  ©ICRC    
 
   
       
  ©ICRC    
 
   
      

The Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission, handling cases of persons missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War, held its second technical meeting for forensic technicians and crime-scene investigators on 3 May. At this gathering, organized and chaired by the ICRC, specialists from the US, UK, Iraq, Kuwait and the ICRC decided to set up an ad hoc advisory group to support efforts to search for and recover the remains of hundreds of Kuwaitis and Iraqis still missing from the 1990-1991 war.

The participants in the group were invited to witness an exhumation set to begin on 4 May at a gravesite in the Kuwaiti desert some 15 kilometres from the Iraqi border. Over the next three days, forensic technicians, led by specialists from the Kuwait Crime Evidence Department, unearthed the mortal remains of 55 people. On 17 May, the remains were transferred under ICRC auspices from Kuwait to Iraq at the Abdaly/Safwan border crossing.

" This operation represents a significant step forward and shows the commitment of all parties involved to find out what happened to the missing people and to share information with the families, " said Jean-Michel Monod, the head of the ICRC's regional delegation in Kuwait. " The exhumation became possible once the ICRC had identified a site, on the basis of documents made available in 1991 by the then Coalition, where 47 Iraqi soldiers killed in action had been buried. "

The bodies had been buried by the Saudi armed forces in accordance with Muslim rites and in full compliance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions regarding inhumation of the dead. Identity documents recovered on the spot should enable th e Iraqi authorities to hand over some of the remains to the families relatively quickly.

Hundreds of families of people missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War are still living in agony and uncertainty as they wait for information about their loved ones. Under international humanitarian law, families have a right to know the fate of their relatives, and the parties to the conflict have a responsibility to find out what happened to people reported missing and to share information with the families.