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ICRC activities in favour of prisoners of war during the Iraq-Iran war and the Gulf war


According to international humanitarian law (Third Geneva Convention), prisoners of war should be repatriated at the end of hostilities. The ICRC should have access to them, register them and be able to conduct individual interviews to make sure they are being repatriated willingly.

 Iraq-Iran war  


More than 14 years after the end of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the issue of prisoners of war is not yet settled. So far, the ICRC supervised the repatriation of some 97,000 prisoners of war.

Since the 1988 cease-fire agreed between Iran and Iraq, the ICRC has urged the two parties, in accordance with international humanitarian law, to release and repatriate all prisoners of war (POWs), to make progress in identifying and repatriating the bodies of those killed in the war and to resolve the problem of the people " missing in action " .

Upon the outbreak of hostilities in 1980, the ICRC offered its services to both countries in the frame of the Third Geneva Convention. Throughout the eight years of conflict, the ICRC   registered and visited POWs in both countries.    

The most recent repatriations took place in January and November 2002: respectively 507 and 20 Iraqi POWs returned to Iraq. In accordance with the organisation's usual procedure, ICRC registered the prisoners beforehand and spoke privately with each of them to make sure they were returning home of their free will. 

The fate of remaining Iraqi and Iranians POWs continues to be discussed between the ICRC and each of the parties. Bilateral discussions between Iraq and Iran to resolve this issue are likewise ongoing.

Furthermore, as a result of th is war, there are additionally tens of thousands of members of the armed forces still missing.

 Gulf war  


In 1991, the ICRC visited Iraqi and Coalition prisoners of war as well as civilian internees of various nationalities.

Repatriations under the auspices of the ICRC enabled a total of 70,067 Iraqi prisoners of war to go back to their country; the mortal remains of 23 Iraqi soldiers were also returned.

Repatriated Kuwaiti military personnel and civilians interned in Iraq totaled 5,038. Five operations conducted by the ICRC took them back to Kuwait. By the end of 1991, the ICRC had also repatriated 4,299 Coalition POWs (Americans, British, Kuwaitis, Italians and Saudis), 1,436 civilians from seven different countries and the mortal remains of 16 people (American, British and Kuwaiti nationals). All captives had been registered by the ICRC and had confirmed that they wished to be repatriated.