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The Missing - member of armed forces and armed groups: identification, family news, killed in action and prevention


This workshop was held in Geneva on 6-7 May 2002


  pdf fileFull summary of the proceedings (PDF file/ 328 Kb - Help)  

The workshop identified best practices and minimum standards in four major areas:

  • The means of identification used by mem bers of the armed forces or armed groups;

  • The exchange of family news between members of armed forces or armed groups and their relatives;

  • The management of human remains on the battlefield; and

  • The main rules that must be respected to prevent the occurrence of unaccounted for people or unidentifiable victims of conflict.

Each theme was chaired and moderated by a participant. The themes were presented in plenary sessions by the chairman and then considered by working groups. The findings and recommendations of each group were then presented to the plenary session by a rapporteur. In two of the cases the topics were considered solely in plenary. Some standard operating procedures were submitted by participants after the workshop for incorporation into the guidelines.
The ICRC's role, apart from providing the logistics for the workshop, was to record the proceedings without attribution (Chatham House rules).
A precondition for implementing the recommendations is that parties to a situation of armed conflict or internal violence must accept their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law. The process of implementing these recommendations is likely be a daunting one, fraught with obstacles and limitations that are sometimes beyond the capacity of the parties involved to overcome. There was agreement that any change or improvement to the current situation in the areas under discussion would have to be achieved through a series of small steps over a long period.
The absence of political will and the necessary resources will also influence the scope and rapidity with which changes are implemented. A concerted and continuous process will be required if any measurable progress is to be achieved. This places a special obligation on governments and non-state actors to give higher priority to the growing problem of " The Miss ing. "
The themes covered in the workshop are rarely dealt with during training courses for members of the armed forces. The need for them to be included was generally recognized and the ICRC was requested to include such issues in its dissemination and training programmes for members of the armed forces or armed groups. The authorities concerned should take complementary action and integrate these issues in the training of their own troops.

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