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The Missing: a pledge by the ICRC


28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, 2 to 6 December 2003 – Pledge of the ICRC to resolve the problem of people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict or internal violence and to assist their families

  pdf fileThe Missing: a pledge by the ICRC  pdf file (53 kb)  Not knowing the fate of family members missing as a result of armed conflict or violence is a harsh reality for hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons and their extended families are desperate to know the whereabouts or fate of their loved ones.


The uncertainty in which they have to live generates much suffering and anger which often continues long after the situation of violence is over. The lack of clarity on the fate of persons unaccounted for leaves lasting wounds and deep resentments within communities and can pose an obstacle to a process of peace and reconciliation. These feelings are not only the consequence of armed conflict and violence; they can also be the cause of new ones.

Convinced that more can and must be done for the respect of international humanitarian law and legal norms in order to prevent persons from becoming unaccounted for, to   resolve the problem when this occurs and to respond to the needs of families of missing persons, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) pledges to:

 strengthen its operational practices with the aim of:  

  • focusing particular attention on preventing persons from becoming unaccounted for,

  • facilitating the determination of the fate of missing persons,

  • re-establishing family links, and

  • better assisting the families of missing persons;

 work with relevant authorities and organization:  


  • to determine a framework and guidelines-best practices in order to resolve problems linked to missing persons,

  • to encourage forensic specialists to define standards and guidelines for the collection, exhumation and identification of human remains, and for international recognition of these standards,

  • to contribute to the creation of international mechanisms to support and assist families of missing persons, and

  • to reinforce the network of tracing services of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies;

  • contribute to strengthen international and domestic law which serves to protect persons from becoming unaccounted for, to ascertain the fate of missing persons and to sustain the right of families to know the fate of their relatives.