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International Conference approves measures to tackle tragedy of persons missing because of war and internal violence

21-02-2003 News Release 03/09 

Geneva, 21 February 2003 (ICRC) – A major international conference convened by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ended today with a strong call for action to clarify the fate of people missing as a result of armed conflict and internal violence and to support their families. The recommendations adopted by the conference also aim at protecting persons from going missing.

The conference brought about a heightened awareness of this tragedy and provided a renewed impetus for efforts that need to be made by all those responsible for addressing the problem of the missing and their families. It brought together over 350 governmental and non-governmental experts from more than 90 countries, including representatives of families of the missing.
The conference recognised that the issue of people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict or internal violence deserves greater attention. Uncertainty about the fate of their family members is a harsh reality for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Their distress makes them unable to gain closure on the violent events that disrupted their lives and that of their communities. The humiliation and suffering of families and friends of missing persons too often undermines efforts towards rehabilitation and reconciliation.
The right of families to know the fate of missing relatives was at the heart of the discussions, and concrete measures to address this vital need were proposed. These include humane treatment of persons deprived of their liberty under all circumstances, and informing their families of their whereabouts. Family members, wherever they may be, must be able to communicate with each other at regular intervals. Human remains must be recovered and treated in a responsible and dignified manner, allowing for their identification and restitution to families. The conference also proposed a number of preventive measures including the provision of personal identification to all combatants and to civilians at risk, particularly children.
The conference reaffirmed that the families of missing persons need material, financial, psychological and legal support. It directed parti cular attention to women and children who may find themselves in situations of acute destitution and distress.
The final success of the conference will be determined by the extent to which the measures adopted will be made known and applied by governments and international and national non-governmental organizations.
The " Observations and Recommendations " approved by the conference as well as the report of the " Working Group on the Observations and Recommendations " are available on . Other reports concerning the conference's work are available at the CICG and will be available shortly on the web site.


 For further information, please contact: Antonella Notari, spokesperson, ICRC, tel. +41 79 217 32 80  

 or Florian Westphal, media relations, ICRC, tel. +41 79 217 32 26;