Establishing mechanisms to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons: A proposed humanitarian approach

This article examines the different types of mechanisms which can contribute to addressing the issue of the missing, including providing answers on the fate and whereabouts of missing persons. It looks in detail at one approach that the authors have observed in the field. It argues that an approach based on humanitarian objectives which does not look into who is responsible for the disappearance, with proper management of confidential information, could be a powerful instrument for searching for and collecting relevant information on the missing in certain contexts. The article also proposes avenues for further research, with a view to enhancing the global capacity to provide meaningful answers for the missing and their families.

About the authors

Monique Crettol

Monique Crettol is adviser with the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division of the ICRC.

Lina Milner

Lina Milner is a Senior ICRC Advisor and has been serving as a Regional Coordinator for the Missing in Georgia and the Western Balkans for the last ten years.

Anne-Marie La Rosa
International consultant on global governance

Anne-Marie La Rosa, PhD, DES, LLB, is a former Senior Officer of the International Labour Organization and the ICRC. She teaches and has published extensively in international humanitarian law, international criminal law and transitional justice, including on processes related to the missing.

Jill Stockwell

Jill Stockwell, PhD, is a social anthropologist and an Advisor on Missing Persons and their Families with the ICRC.