The Missing Conference - Daily bulletin no 4
Geneva, 21 February 2003
Last day of the conference
The conference resumed on Friday morning in plenary session.
Reports from the panels
The rapporteurs of the four panels presented the outcome of their discussions to the plenary session. (see bulletin no. 3 of yesterday). Their reports will form part of acts of the conference published by the ICRC.
Report from the general debate
A report on the general debate in the plenary sessions was presented to the conference by the chairman Yves Sandoz.
Almost 60 delegates took the floor during these debates. The chairman said he was particularly pleased by the diversity of the contributions and the fact that they came from all corners of the world.
Yves Sandoz identified three points that he thought important. Firstly the suffering of the fa milies had been recognized and emphasized by all. Secondly the law, as a means of reducing that suffering, had been recognized as an indispensable tool. Finally, the conference clearly marked an historic turning point in the search for ways of resolving the problem of missing people and had to be followed up.
The conference adopted a final document, Observations and Recommendations, presented by Ambassador Nicolas Michel, who chaired the Working Group.
The objective of the Working Group was to have an overview of the document. It was open to all conference participants and was well attended.
The substantive work of the Working Group began with a presentation making the links between the contents of the Observations and Recommendations and the ICRC Report: The Missing and Their Families. The Working Group then proceeded to discuss each section of the text in order to obtain clarifications and exchange views.
" During the discussion, " said Ambassador Michel, " it was recalled that the term missing persons should be understo od in its broadest sense " . Missing persons or persons unaccounted for are those whose families are without news of them and/or are reported missing on the basis of reliable information. People become unaccounted for due to a wide variety of circumstances, such as displacement, whether as an internally displaced person or a refugee, being killed in action during an armed conflict, or forcibly or involuntarily disappearing or detained incomunicado . Particular reference was made to the vulnerability of children.
" The need to recognize the universal right to know was strongly advocated, " he said. " . When referring to preventive measures, the need for effective protection was emphasized. "
" Despite the fact that many participants would have preferred the use of stronger language, " he concluded, " we are confident that the Observations and Recommendations will nourish this process on resolving the problem of people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict and internal violence and to assist their families.
The full text of the report and the document Observations and Recommendations appear on the ICRC web site
A number of delegates took the opportunity of the final plenary to make individual statements before the formal closure. A report on these will appear in the acts of the conference.
Jacques Forster, vice-president of the ICRC, recalled that when the ICRC decided to convene the conference on the missing, " it knew full well that it was tackling and important but thorny issue, one that has an overwhelmingly humanitarian dimension, but that also touches on a number of sensitive matters that are politically or legally controversial. "
He said the ICRC was pleased that the three days had allowed fruitful contact between people who did not always come into contact with one another: the families of missing people, medical professionals, humanitarian workers, human rights activists and political representatives.
" The observations and recommendations adopted today, " he said, " demonstrate to all of us the need for action at the political, legal and operational level. "
Antonella Notari, head of press - 079 217 3280
Florian Westphal, press officer - 079 217 3226For more information on the missing
This daily bulletin is for information purposes only and is not an official document of the conference. It will be available to participants each morning and on the ICRC web site (www.icrc.org). It is also available to the media, ICRC delegations worldwide and national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
Ian Piper, ICRC (English)
Jette Soerensen, ICRC (French)
Editor: Antonella Notari
Photos: Thierry Gassman, ICRC