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Enforced disappearance must stop

30-08-2003 News Release 03/60

Geneva (ICRC) – On the occasion of the International Day of the 'Disappeared', the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demands that urgent priority be given to elucidating the fate of all persons whose whereabouts remain unknown following their detention in situations of armed conflict or internal violence.

No matter how legitimate the reasons for a person's detention, no one has the right to keep that person's fate or whereabouts secret or to deny that he or she is being detained. This practice runs counter to the basic tenets of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Preventing enforced disappearance is among the key aims of the ICRC's visits to persons detained as a result of armed conflict or internal violence. In 2002, the organization visited about 448,000 detainees in more than 75 countries. The ICRC registers detainees so that it can check on them individually and it gives them the opportunity to speak with ICRC delegates in private. For many detainees, these visits, which are repeated regularly, are their only contact with the outside world.

Hundreds of thousands of people are currently missing in connection with armed conflict or internal violence. Many of them are victims of enforced disappearance. The families of the missing often do not even know whether their loved ones are still alive. Uncertainty over the fate of missing persons causes untold suffering and can seriously hamper reconciliation and healing in societies emerging from conflict.

Families have a right to know what happened to their missing relatives. Every measure must therefore be taken to tackle the problem, including steps to prevent people from disappearing in the first place.

 Further information:  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, ++41 22 730 29 30 / ++41 79 217 32 26