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Indonesia/Bali : Red Cross helps establish vital link between families and unidentified victims

24-10-2002 News Release 02/43

Only minutes after the devastating explosions in Kuta, Bali, more than 80 volunteers of the Indonesian Red Cross Society (Palang Merah Indonesia – PMI) were frantically working to save lives and collect the dead.

A few days later, the Red Cross began making a vital contribution to the arduous and sensitive process of establishing links between families, most of them Indonesian, who are anxiously seeking information on the whereabouts of relatives presumed to have been in the area of the blasts and unaccounted for since, and forensic efforts to identify the almost 200 bodies recovered so far.

Volunteers of the Bali chapter and branches of the National Society are receiving guidance and support from a joint PMI/ICRC team from Jakarta in their efforts to set up and run a system of data collection from families and individuals. The system also involves the compilation of essential information from other sources, a process initiated largely by private Indonesian and foreign volunteers in the first two days after the bombings. In addition, the PMI/ICRC team is liaising with Indonesian and foreign forensic teams and following up new evidence through active tracing techniques.

Between 20 and 23 October a dozen PMI volunteers and seven PMI and ICRC staff from Jakarta, led by the ICRC protection coordinator, collected almost 30 tracing requests. Proceeding on the basis of Interpol standards and relevant international protocols, they also conducted detailed interviews to gather ante-mortem data. Another 15 PMI volunteers are continuing the gruelling task of preserving by refrigeration the unidentified remains of around 140 people at the morgue in Denpasar. The forensic process has led to the positive identification of 50 victims to date. Ten days after the bombings, volunteers are still bringing in newly discovered remains.

The PMI/ICRC team is focusing mainly on Indonesian families and other cases not covered by the consular services of the various foreign embassies concerned. For these cases, the ICRC is about to activate the international tracing network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Its mandate to take a lead role in this regard was confirmed in meetings between the Indonesian authorities and the PMI's national and provincial leadership. In all these activities, close coordination is maintained between the ICRC, the International Federation and the National Societies, in particular the Australian Red Cross, which has offered to provide technical assistance.

Last Monday and Tuesday an Australian Red Cross delegate organized psychological support and emotional debriefing sessions for PMI volunteers. This was followed by a gathering during which the Chairman and Secretary General of the PMI and representatives of the Australian Red Cross, the Federation and the ICRC expressed their profound sympathy for the families of the victims, and the pride of the whole Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement in the enormous and unparalleled courage and commitment shown by the volunteers.