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Iraq/Kuwait: stepping up efforts to account for missing persons

17-11-2011 News Release 11/232

Baghdad/Kuwait City/Geneva (ICRC) – With hundreds of people still unaccounted for as a result of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the governments concerned have met in an attempt to shed light on their fate.

The 34th session of the Tripartite Commission, composed of representatives of Iraq, Kuwait and the 1990-1991 Coalition (the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia), has just been held in Geneva under the auspices of the  International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"More than 20 years after the end of the conflict, hundreds of families are still waiting for news of their loved ones," said Dika Dulic, the ICRC in charge of issues relating to missing persons in Iraq. "It is vital that the authorities concerned fulfil their obligation to provide information for the families. The ICRC continues to support them in their efforts to do so."

At the meeting in Geneva, Iraq, Kuwait and the other members of the Tripartite Commission decided to further strengthen the process of gathering information on the possible location of burial sites. They agreed on the need to establish a concrete plan of action concerning future excavations in both Iraq and Kuwait.

In June, the remains of 32 Iraqi soldiers were exhumed in a joint mission undertaken on Kuwaiti soil. The remains were handed over to the Iraqi government, which is now seeking to establish the soldiers' identities. Similar missions have also taken place in recent months on Iraqi soil. On one of these missions, an area of nearly 110,000 square metres in Thi Qar province was excavated over five weeks, but no mortal remains were found.

"Even though my son is dead, I know – at last – that he is resting in peace," said 62-year-old Ferdous, who finally managed to bury her son in Basra. "I waited for years not knowing where he was or how he was doing, but at least now I can visit him in his grave."

The Tripartite Commission and its Technical Sub-Committee were set up in 1991 and 1994 respectively. So far, this mechanism has helped determine what happened to more than 300 people who went missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War, including 217 Kuwaitis, 94 Iraqis, 11 Saudis and people of other nationalities.

For further information, please contact:
Fouad Bawaba, ICRC Kuwait, tel: +965 978 79 434
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57
Claire Aude-Kaplun, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 7809 13 16 26