News release

Lebanon: Collection of biological samples renews hope for families of the missing

Beirut (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross has begun collecting Biological Reference Samples (BRS) from the families of people who went missing during the Lebanese civil war, in a step to help ease the suffering of relatives left in a prolonged limbo.

The samples will be used to extract DNA in order to identify human remains once a national mechanism is formed by the government with the mandate to uncover the fate of the disappeared. Two samples are being collected from each family member directly related to the missing person, with one sample being stored with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and the other with the ICRC as a backup.

"It is time for the government to take up its responsibilities in uncovering the fate of those who went missing during the war" said Fabrizzio Carboni, head of the ICRC delegation in Lebanon "All this work will go in vain if a national mechanism is not formed. Only the Lebanese government can uncover the fate of the disappeared and end the suffering of the families."

The Lebanese government recently approved the storage of BRS samples at the ISF headquarters. However, a project proposal that would allow for the ISF to take part in the collection of samples is still awaiting cabinet approval. In addition, a draft law on the missing is currently under parliamentary review. Once passed, it should allow for the creation of a national mechanism mandated with uncovering the fate of the disappeared.

"Parents of those missing are going to the grave without the comfort of getting clear answers; we are in a race against time," said Carboni. "The way forward is clear, we urge the government to form a national mechanism for the missing, which the ICRC stands ready to support."

The ICRC has so far allocated more than 10 million USD to support work to clarify the fate of the missing. In 2012, it launched the Ante Disappearance Data Collection Program, and started interviewing the families of people who went missing and gathering information about the circumstances of their loved ones' disappearance. The ICRC has so far interviewed more than 2300 families. Once a national mechanism is set up, the ICRC will hand over all this information to the Lebanese government.

If they have not yet been approached by the ICRC for an interview, ICRC strongly encourages families with loved ones who went missing during the Lebanese civil war to contact us on our hotline: 03 18 63 86.

For more information:
Tarek Wheibi (Arabic & English), ICRC Spokesperson 00961 70 153 928
Patricia Rey (English), ICRC communications coordinator, 00961 71 802 876