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Azerbaijan: publicizing the missing promotes community healing

26-08-2008 News Release 08/153

Baku (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August) with photo exhibitions in Barda and Baku that focus on the continuing tragedy of persons missing in connection with the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict.

The exhibitions will be held between 27 and 30 August in Barda's art gallery and on 29 August in Baku's Modern Art Centre.

The theme of the two exhibitions is " Help clarify their fate " . The events are intended to raise public awareness of the issue of persons who went missing during the conflict and the continuing anguish of their families. The exhibitions display over 40 photos of families of persons unaccounted for and film sequences in which the families talk about the agony of uncertainty regarding their loved ones. Each picture represents the family of a missing person, and each family has a different story. But all of them have one thing in common – hoping against hope for news about their loved ones.

" The ICRC regrets that one of the most serious problems in humanitarian terms caused by this conflict is still affecting thousands of families day-in, day-out, " said Susana Lopez, an ICRC delegate working in Azerbaijan. Families were in limbo, she said, suspecting that their loved ones were dead yet unable to mourn in the absence of proof, and with the remote possibility of their return. She expressed the hope that the exhibitions would help promote community healing.

The ICRC works in close cooperation with Azerbaijan's State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons, the body whose task it is to deal with this issue.

On 14 April last, the ICRC and the State Commission signed a framework agreement on collecting a nd centralizing detailed data on persons missing in connection with the conflict. The agreement's aim is to collect comprehensive information either from the families of each missing person or from the individual who last saw him or her. This important step shows Azerbaijan's political will to seriously address the missing persons issue.

In conjunction with the Azerbaijani authorities, the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan started collecting this data last June in the Baku area. Families in other areas will be informed in advance of the date when data will be collected from them. The project is being carried out by Red Crescent volunteers with technical, financial and organizational support from the ICRC.

Since 1992 the ICRC has been working to help the authorities fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and support the families of the missing in their right to learn what has happened to their loved ones.

For further information, please contact:
  Gulnaz Guliyeva, ICRC Baku, tel. +994 12 465 63 34 or +994 12 465 64 52