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Timor-Leste: ICRC study on the needs of families of missing persons

18-05-2010 News Release 10/88

Dili (ICRC) – On 17 May 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) formally handed over a special study to national authorities and members of civil society at a ceremony attended by Zacarias Albano Da Costa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

The study, titled Needs of Families of the Missing in Timor Leste , gives expression to the anguish of Timorese families whose loved ones went missing in connection with the 1975 -1999 armed conflict in Timor-Leste. It sums up the findings of an in-depth study conducted by Simon Robins, an external consultant familiar with both the issue and the socio-cultural context. The study also contains a number of valuable recommendations for addressing the needs of families of missing persons.

" I would like to forget about them but it's impossible because they haunt my dreams. Something hasn't been done for them and it's like they are coming to remind us about it, " said a man of his two brothers who were missing. Disappearance has taken its toll on families, among whom cases of depression and mental illness are common. Although most families cited economic support as their most pressing need, almost one-third of them mentioned recognition of the sacrifice made by the family as a priority.

Fundamental rules of international humanitarian law and human rights law help prevent persons from going missing in situations of armed conflict or internal violence. To respect these principles is to respect the integrity and dignity of all human beings, including the deceased. Families have a right to learn the fate of relatives who have gone missing during a conflict or some other situation of violence.

  For further information, please contact:
  Zurab Burduli, ICRC Dili, tel: +670 331 04 52 or +670 732 15 58