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Iran and ICRC review issue of Prisoners of War (POW) from the 1980 – 88 Iran-Iraq war

02-03-2004 News Release 04/26

Teheran – (ICRC) The Delegate-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the Middle East and North Africa, Balthasar Staehelin, has concluded a visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran during which he met senior officials for talks which focused on the outstanding issues related to Prisoners of War (POW) captured during the 1980-88 war.

Both sides reviewed past activities and addressed the remaining questions concerning POWs captured during this war. Since 1980, 56'712 Iraqi POWs have been repatriated from Iran under ICRC auspices to rejoin their families. This includes the repatriation of 2'762 POWs between 1980 and 1989, 40'935 in 1990, 2'376 between 1991 and 1997, 5'584 in April 1998 and 5'055 from June 1998 until May 2003.

On 23 June 2003, Iran formally informed the ICRC that no Iraqi POWs remained interned in Iran.

In June 1998, Iran and the ICRC put in place arrangements to address the issue of Iraqi POWs released by Iran who opted not to return to their home country. The Iranian authorities, by means of repeated public announcements, invited these released POWs to contact the ICRC. 7'521 released POWs have since responded to this appeal and were interviewed in several cities by the ICRC. None expressed the wish to be repatriated to Iraq.

During the talks in Teheran, the ICRC delegation led by Mr Staehelin and Iran agreed on a formal mechanism of exchanging information in order to settle the cases of Iraqi POWs released by Iran who have not yet contacted the ICRC. It is hoped that the results of this mechanism will provide answers to the families concerned.

The ICRC also informed the Iranian authorities that it will pursue its efforts related to Iranian POWs and presumed POWs and strive to establish an appropriate mechanism with the relevant authorities in Iraq to resolve these cases.

The following cases relat ed to the POW issue remain yet unresolved:

  • 1'093 Iraqis previously registered by the ICRC as POWs who had been released in Iran according to the Iranian authorities. Interviews with 359 POWs out of this category were carried out in 1990/91 to ascertain their wish to be repatriated or not, but could not be considered as complete. 265 further cases concern presumed Iraqi POWs known to the ICRC only through Red Cross Messages

  • 8 Iranians previously registered by the ICRC as POWs and 367 presumed Iranian POWs known to the ICRC during the war through reports of other POWs. The former Iraqi authorities declared that there were no more Iranian POWs held in Iraq.

The ICRC is ready to support efforts by Iran and Iraq to provide answers concerning these POWs and presumed POWs as required by the Third Geneva Convention. It hopes that this information will help the families in both countries anxious to know what happened to their loved ones.

The ICRC furthermore encourages both countries to continue working on other important humanitarian concerns resulting from the Iran-Iraq war such as the issue of missing persons. The ICRC will seek to assist Iran and Iraq in this respect.

During his one-week stay in Iran, Mr Staehelin also visited the Iranian Red Crescent Society and met with its President, Dr Ahmad Ali Noorbala. The mutual desire to strengthen and expand the existing partnership and cooperation between the two institutions were at the heart of the discussions.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Nada Doumani, ICRC Amman, tel. ++1 914 360 94 73 or ++962 77 399 614  

 Marvam Kashefi, ICRC Tehran, tel. ++98 912 302 02 97