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Azerbaijan: New agreement aims to shed light on fate of missing

14-04-2008 News Release 08/66

Geneva/Baku (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan have signed an important new agreement to help clarify the fate of thousands of people who went missing during the Nagorny Karabakh conflict.

" Fourteen years have gone by since the ceasefire was announced between Armenia and Azerbaijan, yet it remains unclear what happened to over 4,000 people who are still missing, " said the head of the ICRC's delegation in Azerbaijan, Martin Amacher. " Without news about the fate of their loved ones, these families will continue to remain stuck between hope and despair. It's a source of endless pain for them. "

The Framework Agreement on Missing Persons in Relation to the Nagorny Karabakh Conflict will enable detailed data to be collected from the families of missing persons. The aim is to help identify their missing relatives. The data will be collected by trained volunteers from the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan and will then be handed over to the authorities to assist with future identifications.

The agreement was signed on 14 April by Mr Amacher and Eldar Makhmudov, Azerbaijan's minister of national security and chairman of the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons, the body mandated to deal with this issue.

The ICRC has long supported the authorities in ascertaining the fate of people who went missing during the conflict. Over the past few years, the ICRC has strongly encouraged the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the de facto authorities in Nagorny Karabakh, to take concrete action to obtain information on people who remain unaccounted for, as well as to support their families, who have a right to know what happened to their loved ones.

" This agreement is a significant step forward in addressing some of the conflict's long-term consequen ces from a humanitarian perspective, " said Susana López, the ICRC's protection coordinator in Azerbaijan. " The next step is to work with the Red Crescent to start gathering the detailed information and to help the authorities in the identification process. "

  For further information, please contact:
  Gulnaz Guliyeva, ICRC Baku, tel: +994 12 465 63 34 or +994 12 465 64 52
  Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 64