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Major conference on persons missing because of war opens in Geneva

19-02-2003 News Release 03/07

Geneva (ICRC) – An international conference on the problem of people who go missing during armed conflict and internal violence opens today in Geneva.

The conference, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), brings together some 350 experts from about 90 countries in a bid to draw attention to the largely forgotten plight of thousands of families around the world who simply do not know what has happened to a loved one. 

The ICRC hopes that the event will revitalize efforts to find out what has happened to missing persons. One aim is to provide practical guidelines for preventing disappearances in the first place. The experts will discuss procedures used by States and organizations and will look for ways to meet the material, legal and psychological needs of the families.

" We are driven in our efforts by the clear awareness gained over the years and all around the world of how desperate the families of missing persons are when they are unable to find out what has happened to their relatives, " said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger. " I call on governments and everyone else involved to take urgent and effective steps to spare other families from enduring this pain. "

The participants include legal, scientific and military experts, United Nations officials, Red Cross and Red Crescent representatives from across the world and representatives of associations formed by families from various conflict areas and other non-governmental organizations. They will focus on the results of eight preliminary workshops and three studies organized by the ICRC over the past year. 

No one knows how many people around the world are missing owing to armed conflict and internal violence. In the twentieth century alone there were millions of cases. These include more than 22,000 people still unaccounted for in the former Yugoslavia, over 100,000 in Rwanda, and reportedly more than 6,000 in Peru. In many countries, families have been waiting for years and even decades for news of their loved ones.

Media information:

 Location:  Geneva International Conference Centre, 15 rue de Varembé, 1211 Geneva

 Registration:  You can register directly at the Centre on 19 February starting at 8 a.m. Most sessions are open to journalists.

 Web site:  Consult the ICRC web site for more information and sound clips.

 TV footage:  Footage illustrating the problem across the world can be obtained from the ICRC.

 Contacts:  

 Antonella Notari, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 80  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 26