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Missing persons: not enough is being done

29-08-2007 News Release 07/96

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is marking the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August by calling on the international community to renew its commitment to addressing the plight of missing persons and their families.

  See also:

    Report:   The Missing: a hidden tragedy  

    Interview   with the head of the ICRC's Task Force on the Missing  

    Feature:   The Missing in Iraq  

    Press briefing

    TV news footage
In addition, the ICRC is unveiling a report entitled Missing Persons – A Hidden Tragedy,  which calls attention to the tragic predicament – all too often ignored – of people unaccounted for in connection with armed conflict and other situations of violence, and of their families.

“Ever since wars have been fought, people have gone missing,” said Pierre Krähenbühl, the ICRC’s director of operations, while presenting the report at the organization’s Geneva headquarters.

All missing persons have different, often tragic, stories, whether they are captured, abducted or arrested civilians; prisoners who die in custody or are held in secret locations; victims of mass executions hastily buried in unmarked graves; men, women and children fleeing conflict in mass displacements, separated from their loved ones for years on end; soldiers killed whose remains are improperly disposed of, or whose bodies are left unidentified on the battlefield.

“Not enough is being done,” according to Krähenbühl. “It is imperative to deal with this tragedy and help the tens of thousands of families of missing persons discover what happened to their loved ones. Not knowing whether a loved one is dead or alive causes anxiety, anger and a deep sense of injustice, and makes it impossible for relatives to mourn and ultimately reach a sense of closure.”

The ICRC report includes personal ac counts and narratives conveying the agony and great sense of loss that bereaved families endure over many years. “Even if there’s nothing but a skeleton, I don’t care – I just want my son back,” said Guliko Ekizashvili, a Georgian woman whose son is still missing 14 years after he disappeared during the armed conflict between Georgia and the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Krähenbühl emphasized that “there are concrete measures that States and others can take to prevent such a tragedy from occurring in the first place. Often, what is lacking is the political will to tackle the problem.” He also welcomed the adoption in December 2006 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a legally binding document that prohibits enforced disappearance. “The ICRC urges States to sign, ratify and implement this important treaty as soon as possible,” he declared.

For further information, please contact:
  Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26


 Spokespersons are available for interviews in the following languages:  


 French / English: Carla Haddad +41 22 730 2405 or +41 79 217 3226  

 Arabic: Hisham Hassan +962 777 399 614  

 Spanish: Marçal Izard +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 3224  

 Russian: Yuri Shafarenko +74 95 62 65 426 or + 7 90 35 45 35 34  


 For information on individual countries please consult our contact list .

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