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Armenia: new agreement to help determine the fate of missing persons

03-10-2008 News Release 08/182

Geneva/Yerevan (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons have signed a framework agreement to help clarify what happened to thousands of people who went missing in connection with the Nagorny Karabakh conflict.

The agreement was signed by Seyran Ohanyan, the defence minister and president of the State Commission, and James Reynolds, the head of the ICRC delegation in Armenia.

The Framework Agreement on the  Collection and Centralized Management of Ante-Mortem Data on Missing Persons in Relation to the Nagorny Karabakh Conflict will provide the basis for collecting detailed data on the missing persons from their families. This will be done by Armenian Red Cross Society volunteers once they have completed special training. Ante-mortem data typically includes photos as well as details of physical characteristics of missing persons, personal effects and clothing they may have been wearing at the time of their disappearance. The information obtained will be handed over to the authorities to assist with future identifications of human remains. A similar agreement was signed with the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan in April 2008. Another such agreement is expected to be signed soon with the equivalent commission in Nagorny Karabakh.

" The signing of the agreement is an important step, although it is a means to an end rather than an end itself, " said Mr Reynolds. " More than 4,000 families are still waiting for news about their relatives missing in connection with the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. They expect the parties to do much more to help them. "

The ICRC has long supported the authorities'efforts to determine what happened to the people who went missing during the conflict. In recent y ears, the ICRC has strongly encouraged Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as Nagorny Karabakh, to take action to gather more information on persons still unaccounted for, and has provided support for the families. In addition, the ICRC has been working with the Armenian authorities on draft national legislation protecting the rights of missing persons and their families.

For further information, please contact:
  Ashot Astabatsyan, ICRC Yerevan, tel +374 10 29 74 15
  Florian Westphal. ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 22 82