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Iraq/Saudi Arabia: Remains of 63 Iraqis repatriated from Saudi Arabia

03-04-2008 News Release 08/61

Iraq / Kuwait (ICRC) – The mortal remains of 62 Iraqi soldiers who died in the 1991 Gulf War, together with those of a seven-month-old Iraqi girl who died in a refugee camp at the time, were repatriated today from Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

ICRC delegates attended the exhumation of the bodies at the invitation of the Saudi authorities. Afterwards, they accompanied the bodies, which were transported through Kuwait, with the help of the Kuwaiti authorities, and handed over to Iraqi authorities at the Kuwaiti border.

Until the respective families are located, the bodies, which have all been identified, will remain at the Al Zubair Centre, set up by the Iraqi authorities in 1991 to store unidentified and unclaimed remains of Iraqi servicemen killed in action. However, because the files containing information on the families of missing persons have been looted or destroyed during the current conflict, it will be difficult to locate the relatives of those whose remains were repatriated today.

“The authorities must do their utmost to find and to inform the families as soon as possible. They have been living in painful uncertainty for more than 17 years,” said ICRC delegate, Jamila Hammami. “The families of persons missing as a result of armed conflict have the right to know the fate of their loved ones. The main responsibility for providing answers, and the power to do so, lie with the authorities.”

The ICRC continues to support efforts to clarify the fate of almost 1,500 persons - mainly Kuwaitis, Iraqis and Saudis - still missing in connection with the 1991 Gulf War. It does this by providing technical expertise and acting as a neutral and impartial intermediary. The ICRC has chaired both the Tripartite Commission and its Technical Sub-Committee since they were set up in 1991 and 1994, respectively, to resolve the fate of those missing since the Gulf War. Since 2003, the Commission and the Sub-Committee have h elped to clarify the fate of 293 people.

“Today’s operation by the Iraqi and Saudi authorities complements the work of the Tripartite mechanism. The ICRC welcomes all efforts that help bereaved families cope with their loss,” Ms Hammami said. 

For further information, please contact:
  Hicham Hassan, ICRC Iraq, tel: +962 777 399 614 or +962 6 552 39 94
  Fouad Bawaba, ICRC Kuwait, tel: +965 5322 061 or +965 787 94 34
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18