ICRC Report: The Missing and their families

21-02-2003 Report

Conclusions arising from Events held prior to the International Conference of Governmental and Non-Governmental Experts (19-21 February 2003).


 I. Introduction  

Uncertainty about the fate of their relatives is a harsh reality for countless families in armed conflict and internal violence. All around the world, parents, siblings, spouses and children are desperately trying to find lost relatives. Families and communities, not knowing whether their members are alive or dead, are unable to obtain closure on the violent events that have disrupted their lives. Their anxiety remains with them for years after the fighting has subsided and peace returned. They are unable to move on to personal or community rehabilitation and reconciliation. Future generations carry with them the resentment caused by the humiliation and injustice suffered by their relatives and neighbours. Such festering wounds can rot the fabric of society and undermine relations between persons, groups and nations for decades after the actual events.

The relevant State authorities, armed groups and leaders must therefore take action, backed by national and international humanitarian and human rights organizations, to prevent people from going missing and to deal with the consequences when they do. For this, they can choose from a broad spectrum of measures involving persuasion, substitution, denunciation and judicial action. Whenever possible, constructive dialogue must be fostered between all parties - including the families of missing persons and their communities. This is the only means of reducing the number of missing persons and of identifying appropriate measures to be taken in their favour and that of their relatives.

The primary need inevitably cited by the families of missing persons is the right to know what happened to their relatives.

Furtherm ore, experience shows that the missing person was often the family breadwinner and bore responsibility for administering the family's affairs in the public realm. Hence, while every effort must be made to ascertain the fate of people who are unaccounted for, their relatives must at the same time be provided with the means of living without shame.

The families and communities attach equal importance to the perpetrators of crimes being held accountable for their acts.

At the very least, when all else fails and it proves impossible to account for those who have disappeared in the course of armed conflict or internal violence, for the sake of the families and communities the loss of human lives must be acknowledged and the next-of-kin allowed to honour the memory of the missing in a dignified manner.

In accordance with the mandate conferred on it by the community of States, the ICRC's objectives in armed conflict and internal violence include to ensure that people are protected against threats to their lives, physical integrity and dignity, to prevent disappearances, to restore family ties, and to ascertain the fate of people whose families are without news of them. In most places, however, the ICRC is prevented from fulfilling these objectives by a lack of will on the part of the authorities or the parties concerned. Other governmental and non-governmental organizations working to prevent disappearances, to promote international humanitarian law and international human rights law and to trace missing persons face similar obstacles.

In cooperation with government representatives, other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental organizations, representatives of families of missing persons and a variety of experts, the ICRC therefore launched a process aimed at addressing the plight of people who are unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict o r internal violence and of their relatives.

The ICRC's objectives in launching this process in cooperation with all those involved in dealing with the issue are to:

(a) review all methods of preventing persons from becoming unaccounted for in armed conflict or internal violence and of responding to the needs of families that have lost contact with their relatives;

(b) agree on common and complementary recommendations and operational practices with all those working to prevent persons from becoming unaccounted for and to respond appropriately when people are missing as a result of armed conflict or internal violence;

(c) heighten concern about the issue among State authorities, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

The ICRC decided to carry out this process in two initial stages.

The first, which took place between February and mid-December 2002, included three studies entrusted to research institutes, two electronic workshops and six workshops for governmental and non-governmental experts.

These events covered the traditional practices and activities of protection work and restoring family links, the management of human remains, support for the families of missing persons, the collection and management of personal data, and mechanisms for handling cases of missing persons. For each topic, needs and how to meet them were pinpointed, constraints identified, and recommendations and best practices produced. Approximately 120 experts contributed in one way or another to these events. A report is available on each one.

For the second stage of the process, the ICRC has convened governmental and non-governmental experts to an international conference that will take place from 19 to 21 February 2003 in Geneva.

The obj ective of this report is to summarize for the conference the results of the events that took place during the first stage of the process. The report was drawn up under the ICRC’s responsibility in two phases, the experts who took part in the first stage of the process having been invited to comment on an initial draft version in October and November 2002. Except for chapter XII, the present report does not necessarily represent the ICRC position.

The ICRC wishes to express its deep appreciation to all those who took part in the process. This report could not have been drafted without the wealth of experience they contributed and without their commitment.

The ICRC hopes that this report and the conference outcome will be of direct use to:

a) all the governmental, humanitarian and human rights players engaged in field work in connection with armed conflict or internal violence;

b) the governments involved in developing international law and preventing or resolving conflicts.

The ICRC will do all in its power to ensure that the outcome of the conference is put into practice for the benefit of missing persons and their families.

 II. Executive summary  

 1. General principles  


1.1 Missing persons or persons unaccounted for are those whose families are without news of them and/or are reported missing, on the basis of rel iable information, owing to armed conflict (international or non-international) or internal violence (internal disturbances (internal strife) and situations requiring a specifically neutral and independent institution and intermediary). The term family and relatives must be understood in their broadest sense, including family members and close friends, and taking into account the cultural environment.

1.2 The type of situation, whether armed conflict or internal violence, should not play a decisive role in determining how to address the issue of missing persons. The determining factor is the cause of the disappearances, which can be due to either disorganization and acts of war or lack of good will on the part of State authorities or armed groups leading to crimes and violations.

1.3 The governments and international, regional and local governmental and non-governmental humanitarian and human rights organizations as well as the ICRC should take action to promote and ensure the ratification of or adhesion to international humanitarian law and human rights treaties, their implementation in domestic law, respect for their provisions, and adequate instruction in the principles they contain for all State agents and at educational institutions.

1.4 War crimes and other crimes under international law must be systematically prosecuted by national or international courts.

1.5 The families of missing persons must be recognized as victims of armed conflict or internal violence. Their right to information, accountability and acknowledgment must be upheld. Their most fundamental need is nevertheless for information on the fate of their relatives.

1.6 The individual right of family members to know the fate of missing relatives, their whereabouts or, if dead, the circumstances and cause of their deaths, should be explicitly recognized in times of armed conflict and internal violence. The violation of the right to inform relatives of one’s whereabouts or of the right of family members to receive information on the fate of relatives missing because of armed conflict or internal violence should be considered a violation of the right to family life. The systematic and/or persistent violation of these rights should be considered cruel or inhuman treatment.

1.7 Directly concerned State authorities and the community of States bear primary responsibility for preventing people from becoming unaccounted for and for ascertaining the fate of missing persons. Armed groups also bear a responsibility in this regard. The issue of missing persons, including the specific needs of their families, must be deliberated at donor meetings.

1.8 Humanitarian and human rights organizations promote awareness, provide support and act as facilitators. The strategy of these players in a given situation will differ according to the degree of willingness of the State authorities and armed groups and to their resource capacity to implement measures to prevent people from going missing and to ascertain the fate of those who are. It will also depend on each player’s mandate, objectives and working methods. Those engaged in a given situation are in all cases accountable to the victims, namely the missing persons and their families; this implies that they must behave ethically.

1.9 Any action or activity undertaken to prevent people from becoming unaccounted for and to ascertain the fate of those who are missing must take into account the sensitivities of and be adapted to the cultural and social environment of each context.

1.10 Those working with the families of missing persons have a responsibility to train and support their staff.

A. Any fieldwork should be preceded by briefings by an expert with local experience, such as an anthropologist, and include information about the society and the cultural and religious aspects of mourning, grief and funeral customs.

B. Specific training should be given by professionals to all staff on the psychological reactions trauma victims may suffer, on the risk of secondary trauma for those working with trauma victims and on the means by which staff can protect themselves against secondary traumatization and burnout.

C. Teams working with the families of missing persons should be regularly debriefed. All staff should be continuously supervised in the field and provided with ongoing support to help them deal with particular problems arising from their work and to help prevent secondary traumatization and burnout.

D. Targeted specific training and support should be provided for staff collecting ante mortem data and/or samples for DNA analysis and transmitting information about death to the families.

 2. Information management  


2.1 The collection of accurate information (establishing the facts) is the first step to be taken when addressing any problem; it should never, though, endanger the person collecting the information or the source of the information. Those involved must coordinate their activities and should share information so as to heighten the effectiveness of the action they take to prevent people from becoming unaccounted for and to ascertain the fate of missing persons. This requires the promotion and implementation of standards on the collection and management of information.

2.2 Centralization of personal data is essential to increase the possibility of finding a match between tracing requests and availab le / known information (on displaced persons, refugees, persons deprived of their liberty, dead persons, etc.). The aim over time must therefore be to centralize personal data.

A. An Information Bureau must be established and operational at the latest by the time the armed conflict breaks out.

B. Among humanitarian and human rights organizations, the ICRC, when present, is recognized to be the organization best able to centralize personal data collected for humanitarian purposes. However, owing to its mandate and the nature of its modes of action, the ICRC will not provide information for use in criminal investigations.

2.3 Information (data and samples) is a powerful tool when used correctly and dangerous when misused. All those involved must therefore work within a framework established in compliance with the legal rules governing the protection of personal data and human remains, including genetic information.

 3. Prevention  


3.1 To establish a context in which people are less likely to become unaccounted for, a number of general practical measures must be taken. These include:

A. establishing control through a strict chain of command within armed and security forces and armed groups in order to ensure that effective supervision is possible;

B. ensuring that personal identity documents are made easily available to all, that people at risk are registered and that deaths are duly registered;

C. issuing official regulations on arrest, capture, detention, imprisonment or captivity that meet internationally recognized standards.

3.2 Armed groups should be made aware of their obligations under international humanitarian law, incl uding their responsibility regarding violations of the treaty-based and customary provisions of the law.

3.3 Armed and security forces / armed groups and military forces serving in peace-keeping and peace-enforcement units must issue and implement, with the required training, directives and instructions based on best-practice guidelines for:

A. the identification of all members of armed forces / armed groups by means of identity discs as a minimum;

B. communication between the members of armed forces / armed groups and their relatives, including mail service at least once a month;

C. ensuring the security and physical integrity of all persons not or no longer participating directly in the hostilities;

D. ensuring the security and physical integrity of all persons deprived of their liberty;

E. the proper management of human remains.

3.4 The identification of members of armed forces / armed groups is a key means of preventing persons from becoming missing as a result of armed conflict. As an absolute minimum, therefore, all members of armed forces and armed groups should be required to wear identity discs. In some cases, troops do not use proper means of identification for lack of resources, knowledge, or technical and administrative skills. In such cases, the members of organizations such as the AU/OAU, ASEAN, NATO, the OAS, the OIC and the OSCE, or peace, democratization and development organizations, or the ICRC may be able to provide help.

3.5 The implementation of the right of families to exchange news is an essential means of preventing people from becoming unaccounted for. The violation of the right to exchange news with relatives should be considered a violation of the right to family life. The systematic and/or persistent violation of this right should be considered cruel or inhuman treatment.

3.6 The Red Cross / Red Crescent family news network is essential and must be supported by all those involved. Other organizations and their means must be seen as being complementary to the network, not as substitutes for it.

3.7 Humanitarian organizations must have guaranteed access to the civilian population in all circumstances.

3.8 The ICRC or another mechanism must be authorized, in all circumstances and on a regular basis, to visit persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to armed conflict or internal violence.

3.9 Persons who die as a result of armed conflict or internal violence are often listed among the missing because their deaths are not recorded, whether deliberately or not. Providing information on those who die in such situations is thus one way of directly reducing the number of missing persons and ascertaining their fate, thereby alleviating the families’ anxiety and putting an end to their uncertainty.

 4. Processing files on missing persons  


4.1 It is essential to compile comprehensive files on persons being sought by their families. All those involved must recognize the importance of distinguishing between humanitarian and political issues when processing such files.

4.2 Those compiling files on missing persons must share and make known their methods of doing so, their objective(s) and their processing procedures.

4.3 All those compiling files must do so on an impartial basis. They must differentiate between facts and presumptions, all of which must be based on sound local knowledge and reflect the reliability of the source of information. The contents of the files must be standardized so that information can be shared and centralized.

4.4 The strategy adopted for p rocessing files depends on the situation. During armed conflict and internal violence, the ICRC can play a major role as a neutral, impartial and independent player. In post-conflict / post-violence situations, processing should be enhanced within a framework that takes account in particular of the means of obtaining information on the fate of missing persons, including from perpetrators. Allowance must also be made for all family needs, the role of the judiciary, the need for reconciliation and the need for a mediation process to facilitate access to information.

 5. Mechanisms for clarifying the fate of missing persons  


5.1 The State authorities, armed groups and civil society should be made aware that the issue of missing persons must be resolved for the purposes of prevention and so that it does not become a legacy of the armed conflict or situation of internal violence. This calls for the mobilization, for example, of public opinion, the media and leaders, who should be made aware of the problem and of the need for mechanisms, including preventive mechanisms.

5.2 The State authorities and armed groups bear primary responsibility for providing information on missing persons. They should be obliged to investigate cases. Criminal procedures should include penalties for non-compliance with court orders pertaining to the disclosure of evidence. The knowing and wilful destruction of evidence should be subject to criminal sanction. International pressure should be used to obtain information from the State authorities and armed groups. The State authorities and armed groups should be held accountable if they impede access to or give inaccurate information.

5.3 The issue of missing persons should systematically figure on the international agenda. Peace ag reements should systematically include specific mechanisms for clarifying the fate of missing persons; the community of States, international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental organizations and the ICRC should lobby actively to that end. The families constitute a pressure group working to keep the issue on the political agenda, and as such should be given support.

5.4 All families need information on the fate of missing relatives; this need is universal. Their needs for accountability and acknowledgement may differ, however, with the context and situation. The mechanisms established should therefore not neglect individual cases. The needs for accountability and acknowledgment should be dealt with in parallel with the need for information; however they may not necessarily be met by formal judicial procedures.

5.5 Most situations require the existence of multiple mechanisms (humanitarian, governmental, judicial and non-judicial), with bridges between them, to cover the range of needs experienced by families and communities.

5.6 Mechanisms should not be externally imposed; they have to be independent and impartial in outlook and working methods.

A. The involvement of international organizations gives them credibility.

B. All mechanisms should deal not only with the State authorities but also with armed groups. Human rights mechanisms should be extended to apply to armed groups.

C. Mechanisms bringing the (former) warring parties together are useful in the search for missing persons if a third party (such as the ICRC) is actively involved and above all if the parties concerned have a clear political will to find the missing. In the absence of that political will or when the mechanism is used as a smokescreen, the third party should be able to withdraw from the process. It should be ready, however, to help reactivate the mechanism if the parties show tangible signs of renewed political will.

D. Information that has been uncovered during a criminal investigation and that can shed light on the fate of a missing person should be provided to the family, in a manner and as soon as compatible with judicial guarantees and effective prosecution.

E. Measures such as laws of amnesty, truth commissions or legislation introducing less severe punishment or granting physical protection to perpetrators can prove helpful, provided they make a substantial contribution to establishing the truth. However, amnesties should only be granted to individuals under certain conditions and in accordance with international law.

F. Information from third persons might also be helpful (with witness protection programmes).

G. Where the judicial system may not be able to handle all cases of missing persons, the implementation of non-judicial mechanisms such as truth commissions should be considered.

H. The families attach great importance to the publication of the names and pictures of missing persons, which also constitutes a means of exerting pressure at the political level.

I. The mechanisms should also cover State reparations and support for victims / families.

5.7 Mechanisms should be complementary; they should coordinate their activities and exchange information on missing persons in compliance with the rules governing the protection of personal data and with their respective mandates. At country level, a central database on all missing persons should be managed by a single agency working with information collected according to an agreed standard.

 6. Management of information on the dead and of human remains  


6.1 The State authoritie s and armed groups bear primary responsibility for the proper handling of the human remains and for information on the dead.

6.2 Despoliation and desecration of the dead should constitute crimes under international law when committed during non-international armed conflicts (as is the case in international armed conflicts). Intentionally mutilating the remains before their repatriation as part of a widespread and systematic policy should be considered an aggravated form of the crime. Intentionally obstructing, interfering with, or impeding the process of identification of human remains for the purpose of preventing said identification should be punished as a criminal offence under domestic law.

6.3 Where the State authorities and armed groups are unable / unwilling to fulfill their obligations and the dead are not taken care of, humanitarian organizations should address the problem from the outset of the armed conflict or internal violence, with the support of the community of States.

A. Information should be systematically collected on graves and on the dead.

B. Measures must be taken:

a. to collect the dead and to exhume unidentified remains when required and as soon as possible;

b. to collect as much information as possible on remains and on the events leading to death;

c. to preserve all remains not returned to the families;

d. to inform the families when a relative has died, to provide them with death certificates / attestations, and to return any personal effects and, whenever possible, the remains.

6.4 All those involved must work in accordance with best practices while respecting the legal and ethical rules pertaining to the management of personal information and human remains.

6.5 In num erous armed conflicts and situations of internal violence, neither death certificates nor official notifications / confirmations of death are provided, either because the information is simply not available or has been withheld. It is therefore essential to collect information about the dead from direct witnesses. As the witness’s account may be the only information on a death that can be transmitted to the deceased’s family, the State authorities should issue death certificates on the basis of any such accounts that meet agreed conditions.

6.6 Whenever possible, any procedure involving human remains should be carried out by forensic specialists.

6.7 Because forensic specialists are not always available in the situations under consideration, non-specialists must often be involved, the aim being to maximize the chances of systematic evaluation of the event and identification, even at a later date.

6.8 Armed and security forces, armed groups, military forces serving in peace-keeping and peace-enforcement units, health facilities and humanitarian organizations should adopt best practices to streamline procedures for collecting information on the dead and handling remains. They should train their staff accordingly, with the support of forensic specialists.

6.9 In armed conflict and internal violence, forensic specialists should be involved in the process of collecting, exhuming and/or identifying human remains as soon as the need arises.

6.10 The involvement of forensic specialists requires an adequate working framework and agreed protocols. Identification for the purposes of informing the family and returning remains is just as important as providing evidence for criminal investigations and constitutes due recognition of the rights of the families. The work of forensic specialists is necessary to ensure both objectives.

6.11 Forensic specialists working in contexts involving missing persons must de monstrate a level of professionalism that goes beyond simply assuring standards of practice.

A. They must be qualified and competent to work in the situations under consideration.

B. They have an ethical obligation actively to advocate an identification process.

C. When examining remains, they have an ethical duty to observe and record all information potentially relevant to identification.

D. They must not follow procedures that will result in the destruction of material that may be used at a later date.

E. They must consider the families'rights and needs before, during and after exhumation.

F. They must give consideration to the disposal of unidentified remains in a way appropriate to the context.

G. They must be familiar with the pertinent provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law, and should promote the incorporation of those provisions in the basic training of forensic specialists.

H. They have a duty to abide by the ethics of their profession and to be aware of the threats they may face in contexts involving missing persons.

6.12 The State authorities bear ultimate responsibility for the management, exhumation and identification of human remains. However, in some contexts others may play this role (e.g. international tribunals, UNHCHR or non-governmental organizations) and bring forensic specialists to the area.

6.13 All those involved must recognize the role of forensic specialists and the need for a framework, standard guidelines and protocols relating to exhumation, autopsies and identification. This includes the understanding that exhumation and identification comprise the dual objectives of identification and establishing the cause of death; it also includes a commitment to give simultaneous consideration to the family in all matters pertaining to human remains an d to ensure that everything possible is done so that the families are informed and supported. These aspects should be reflected in contracts between the forensic specialists and those employing them.

6.14 Forensic teams working in the contexts under consideration must be headed by medical practitioners with recognized qualifications and demonstrable skills and experience in forensic pathology.

6.15 The production, dissemination and updating of accepted forensic guidelines, standards and protocols, along with the training required to ensure that the work is ethically and well performed, will guarantee that an adequate forensic framework is applied in all the situations under consideration. For this purpose, an international body whose mission statement relates to forensic specialists working in such contexts is needed.

6.16 Support must be given to the process of defining standards for exhumation, autopsies and post and ante  mortem data collection and for the development of appropriate software by the forensic working groups convened by the ICRC. In the meantime, the tools available must be adapted and protocols agreed by all those involved in a given context before any exhumation and/or identification process is started.

6.17 The approach to the identification of human remains must be adapted to each context and agreed by all those involved before an identification process is started. It must include decisions and protocols regarding the collection of ante mortem data and/or samples for DNA analysis, and autopsy and identification protocols. It must be implemented under the responsibility of the head of the forensic team.

6.18 DNA analysis must not preclude the use of other objective means of identification. Human remains sho uld be identified by means of DNA typing when other investigative techniques of identification are inadequate. The decision to use DNA analysis should be based on sound scientific and practical considerations within the identification process strategy defined for a given context. Governments, international and regional governmental and non-governmental organizations and the ICRC must take care not to introduce double standards.

6.19 When DNA analysis is deemed necessary for identification:

A. the techniques used must be feasible and practicable in the given context;

B. the techniques used must be reliable and scientifically valid;

C. the information technology used to analyse and match DNA samples must be reliable and valid;

D. the chain of custody for the collection, storage and transport of samples must be agreed by all those involved;

E. the analysis must be performed in certified laboratories that can ensure quality to accredited standards and the handling of human remains, samples and data in agreement with the rules governing the protection of personal data and human remains. Such laboratories must agree to be externally audited.

6.20 The communities and the families must be involved in any process to exhume and/or identify human remains. Their involvement should be adapted to the context, and the process must therefore include a communication strategy agreed and implemented by all those involved.

6.21 The same holds true for the collection from relatives of ante mortem data and/or samples for DNA analysis.

6.22 The collection of human remains and the processes of exhumation and identification should only start once a framework for doing so has been agreed by all those involved. This framework must include the relevant protocols, psychological support for the familie s and organization of the process of ante mortem data collection. As a general principle, families should only have to undergo one interview, which may nevertheless be conducted in several stages. Whenever possible, the entire process should be organized for groups of people who went missing under the same circumstances or during the same event and/or whose remains may be expected to be found in the same location, so as to facilitate planning and speed up the process of identification.

 7. Family support  


7.1 While they await clarification of their relatives’ fate or notification of death, the families of missing persons face specific needs.

7.2 The families’ specific material, financial, psychological and legal needs must be addressed by the directly concerned State authorities, who bear primary responsibility, with the support of the community of States, of international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental organizations and of the ICRC.

7.3 During an emergency phase it may not be possible to address more than the basic needs for food, shelter and physical safety; however, even while the armed conflict or the situation of internal violence is ongoing and as soon as circumstances allow, targeted assistance must be provided to these victims.

7.4 Any programme or activity addressing the families’ needs should be adapted to local circumstances and aim to promote social reconstruction and reconciliation in the community. Programmes should aim to promote the families’ self-sufficiency.

7.5 Of special concern in this respect are single heads of family and unaccompanied minors, whose physical safety must be given special attention.

7.6 Childr en whose parents are both unaccounted for need to be protected, and they must be reunited with and cared for by members of their extended family or community. They should be schooled in their own environment.

7.7 Programmes providing psychological support and, when necessary, psychiatric treatment for the families of missing persons should be set up with a view to helping the families adapt to their altered situation and come to terms with the events. Such programmes should be built on the local mental health, primary health care and healing systems, in order to be adapted to the cultural context and habits. Those systems must therefore be supported and reinforced.

7.8 The State authorities should incorporate into their domestic legislation provisions regarding the legal situation of missing persons and the rights of family members while the person is missing. Matters of concern include the civil status of spouse and children, guardianship and parental authority and the administration of the missing person’s estate.

7.9 Family networks and associations can play an important role at several levels. They can in particular provide collective support, emphasize the role of the families as the chief activists on the issue of missing persons (and not only as victims) and exert pressure on policymakers.

7.10 The development of civil society must be encouraged. In particular, the representative nature, independence and self-sufficiency of family associations and other partners within civil society must be promoted and sustained.

 8. Families and death  


8.1 To show respect for the dead and for local funeral rites is to demonstrate respect for the mourning process, which is essential for peace and social order. To show di srespect for the dead and to prevent funerals and other mourning practices is to make the dead and the living incur a risk.

8.2 The State authorities and armed groups must show respect for the dead and for the mourning practices of all communities and individuals in all circumstances. This also applies to all others carrying out activities related to the dead (e.g. transmitting information on death, returning personal effects or human remains, exhuming or identifying human remains, burying human remains, albeit temporarily). All have a responsibility to find out about local practices and to act accordingly.

8.3 The cultural identity of refugees and displaced persons should be respected at all times; this includes giving refugees and displaced persons the opportunity to hold funerals and commemorative services in keeping with their culture.

8.4 The only prerequisite to mourning is the belief that the missing person is dead. Until adequate proof of death can be provided, relatives of missing persons cannot mourn and may experience feelings of guilt. A death certificate alone might not be enough to induce belief in the death of a missing person. The State authorities that issue death certificates have a responsibility, as does the ICRC when it delivers information on death, to ensure the authenticity of the information contained therein; the certificates should include information on the cause of death and the availability of the human remains.

8.5 The process of informing the families about the death of a relative and of returning personal effects or human remains must be well prepared.

8.6 Commemorations play an important role for the families of missing persons. They should be supported, but their planning and organization should be under the control of the families and communities concerned.

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