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Iraq/Iran/Kuwait: tens of thousands still missing long after conflicts end

29-08-2010 News Release 10/163

Baghdad/Tehran/Kuwait City (ICRC) – The impact of wars is still being felt by people in the greater Gulf region years or even decades after the guns fell silent.

Thousands are still hoping to receive news of their relatives who went missing in connection with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War or the 1990-1991 Gulf War, or after armed conflict broke out in Iraq in 2003.

Ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) renews its call upon governments in the region to pursue their efforts to provide information on the fate of people who went missing. " The ICRC supports the families'right to know what happened to their missing relatives, " said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq. " It reminds the authorities on all sides of their commitment to fulfilling their obligations under international humanitarian law, clarifying the fate of all persons still unaccounted for and providing answers for the families. The ICRC will carry on doing its utmost to help the Iranian and Iraqi governments provide them with answers. "

Tens of thousands of soldiers who took part in the Iran-Iraq War, including some former prisoners of war, remain unaccounted for today. " The fate of those who went missing in the Iran-Iraq War and the suffering of their families are a matter of deep humanitarian concern for the ICRC, " said Pierre Ryter, head of the ICRC mission in Iran. " The families on both sides have been hoping to find out what happened to their loved ones during all these years. They have never given up hope. The ICRC will continue to do everything in its power to help the Iranian and the Iraqi authorities bring news of the missing to their families. "

Various mechanisms set up under ICRC auspices have helped the countries to exchange information. The ICRC's status as a trustworthy neutral intermediary is fully recognized, especially when repatriation operations take place. The ICRC helps to train forensic professionals in the identification and management of mortal remains, and provides specialized equipment for forensic laboratories. It carries out all these activities with the sole aim of alleviating the suffering of the families and bringing answers to them.

The cases of people who went missing in connection with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War are addressed in the framework of a memorandum of understanding signed in 2008 by Iran, Iraq and the ICRC. The document establishes a clear framework for collecting and sharing information, and for handing over mortal remains. The cases of people who went missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War are dealt with by the Tripartite Commission – Iraq, Kuwait and the Coalition at the time (United States, United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia) – and its Technical Sub-Committee, set up in 1991 and 1994, respectively, which have so far provided information on the fate of more than 300 individuals. " Families in Kuwait are longing to know what happened to their missing loved ones, " said Moayed Golabi, deputy head of the ICRC regional delegation in Kuwait. " Little by little, case by case, the Tripartite Commission is unearthing the answers they so earnestly desire and need. "

For further information, please contact:
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
  Layal Horanieh, ICRC Iraq, tel: +962 777 399 614
  John Strick van Linschoten, ICRC Tehran, tel: +98 21 22 64 58 21 – 4 or +98 912 327 30 99
  Fouad Bawaba, ICRC Kuwait, tel: +965 77 87 94 34</>