Humanitarian forensics: Experts discuss current practice and challenges in Arab region

From 9 to 11 April 2019, the Arab Union of Forensics and Toxicology (AUFT) held its 10th international conference: Humanitarian Forensics – Education, Training and Practice.

The event was organized by professor Dina Shokry (Armed Forces College of Medicine), under the auspices of Minister of Health with the support and participation of the ICRC and other partners.

More than 200 practitioners, academics and experts from Egypt, other Arab and African countries, Europe and the Americas came together to discuss specific fields of forensic practices, and challenges emerging from contemporary conflict dynamics.

Two days before the conference, the Middle East and North Africa Forensic network held its third meeting with the support of the ICRC. Forensic experts from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, Sudan, Syria, ICRC specialists from Bagdad, Beirut, Damascus, Geneva, Kuwait and Sana'a, as well as academics from Portugal and the UK, discussed new developments, operational and methodological challenges in the application of forensics expertise addressing the very humanitarian needs.

The essence of humanitarian work is to preserve human life and dignity. Under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), relevant authorities must ensure the proper and dignified management of the dead, in full consideration of the needs of their families, including the right to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones and to recover and mourn their bodies.

With the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine and Libya, the Arab region is facing one of the most severe humanitarian crises, with hundreds of thousands of people killed or wounded, millions of refugees, internally displaced and entire cities destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people are reported missing as a result of past and present conflicts.

Many migrants including the most vulnerable ones, such as children from across the region, lose their precious lives due to drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, each year, and sadly many more are missing.

"Forensic experts and scientists have a key role to play to address the tragedy of missing persons, to contribute to the prevention of disappearances and to ensure the dignified handling of the dead," says Ronald Ofteringer, head of the ICRC's delegation in Cairo.

"This conference brought together specialists and academics in the fields of forensics and related sciences, in order to identify and address difficulties and challenges in current forensic practice and find ways to improve forensic services," says Shokry.

The ICRC is an impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian organization whose purely humanitarian mission is to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflict and violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also strives to raise awareness on the IHL and the universal humanitarian principles.

For further information, please contact:
Omarsharif Ghyasy, ICRC Cairo + 20 101 76 18 23