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Right to know of families of the missing must be respected

30-08-2006 News Release

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), the ICRC regrets that one of the most serious humanitarian problems caused by armed conflict – the fate of missing persons and the suffering of their families – still remains.

 The following was issued as a press release by the ICRC delegation in Baku  

Today, hundreds of thousands of families around the world have no news of their relatives who went missing in situations of armed conflict or internal violence. Whether people go missing on the battlefield or are the victims of forced disappearances, their relatives have a right to know what has happened to them.

Twelve years after the ceasefire in the Nagorny Karabakh (NK) conflict, during which thousands went missing, thousands of families are still uncertain about the fate of their loved ones. Since 1992, the ICRC has been keeping up its efforts to help the authorities fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and to support the families of the missing in their right to know the fate of their relatives.

In February 2004, the ICRC submitted to the highest authorities of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and to the de facto authorities of Nagorny Karabakh, a list of persons unaccounted for in relation with the NK conflict. To date, this list, which includes names of military and civilians, contains 4132 identities, of which 3286 are of Azerbaijani origin, 834 of Armenian origin and 12 originate from other countries. In January 2005, the ICRC submitted a memorandum encouraging them to clarify the fate of these people and proposing that specific activities be undertaken to obtain information on the missing and to support the families involved.

The ICRC is continuing to collect tracing requests from the families of missing persons.   In the near future, the ICRC together with the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society is planning to step up this activity by starting the Collection of detailed data on missing persons. The ICRC works in close cooperation with the Azerbaijan State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing persons, the body mandated to deal with this issue.

The ICRC is planning to transmit a database for the context to the State Commission and has begun discussions on the issue of recording and protecting burial sites which may contain remains of persons who went missing during the conflict.

Worldwide, the ICRC continues to work on the problem of missing persons with the parties to conflicts, humanitarian organizations and others with a stake in the issue. This includes efforts to promote existing international law, to support the strengthening of relevant domestic law, to cooperate with military forces to ensure that soldiers wear some means of identification and that human remains are properly handled on the battlefield.

 For more information, please contact:  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 58  

 Ms Gulnaz Guliyeva, ICRC Baku, tel. +994 12 465 63 34 or 465 64 52