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The Missing - The legal protection of personal data and human remains


This electronic workshop was held in April-May 2002


  pdf fileFull summary of the proceedings (PDF file/ 220 Kb - Help)  

The workshop defined basic general principles regarding the legal protection of personal data and the identification of people missing during and after situations of armed conflict or internal violence which could be defended worldwide. It sought to identify best practices for all actors involved. It recognized that:

  • in such situations domestic law, including rules on protecting personal data if they exist, generally remains applicable.

  • in situations of armed conflict or internal violence it might be difficult to ascertain what the domestic rules are.

  • in some situations, domestic rules may simply not exist or not address a particular issue (for instance the taking and analysis of DNA samples), it might not be clear to whom they are applicable or they may not be practically applicable.

  • governmental agencies might not be in a position to enforce the law, public services might be disorganized and a number of international or foreign agencies or institutions might be concerned.

An initial document of draft principles was provided by the ICRC on the basis of international texts and a selection of domestic laws and regulations on the subject. The document was then submitted to a team of external legal experts for two rounds of comments through the electronic workshop.

The basic principles are meant to be applied by local, foreign or international bodies or agencies, either public or private, and whatever their formal status or the special immunities or privileges they might enjoy under domestic or international law. However, the principles are limited to the substantive aspects of the protection of personal data and the identification of missing people. They do not include the technical or procedural aspects of data processing, DNA analysis, or exhumation.