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Nepal: families of missing persons have a right to know

28-08-2008 News Release 08/155

Kathmandu/Geneva (ICRC) – On the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August 2008), the International Committee of the Red Cross is appealing to the government of Nepal to clarify the fate of those who went missing during the country's 10-year internal conflict.


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The ICRC and the Nepal Red Cross Society are publishing the names of more than 1200 people reported as missing by their relatives between 1996 and 2006.

" Publishing the names of these 1227 people has two main aims, " says Mary Werntz, head of the ICRC delegation in Kathmandu. " First, it seeks public recognition for the families of the missing and acknowledgement of their suffering and needs. Secondly, the publication constitutes an appeal to the government of Nepal to clarify the fate of those who went missing during the conflict and to meet the immediate needs of their families. "

The ICRC and the Nepal Red Cross Society have been supporting the families of missing persons since 1999. In February 2007, the ICRC published its first list of 812 missing persons. This resulted in 33 families learning the fate of their relatives and more families contacting the ICRC, thus making the second published list even longer than the first one.

It is imperative, " says Werntz, " that the authorities establish mechanisms to resolve the legal problems faced by the families of the missing persons and to support them in overcoming their loss. One frequent problem is that women cannot inherit the property of the person who has disappeared, as the missing person has not been declared dead. "

People in Nepal are not alone in suffering the agony of uncertainty when relatives disappear during conflict or violence. All over the world, hundreds of thousands are unaccounted for. The ICRC has received tracing requests from thousands of families in many conflict-affected countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Liberia, Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation. International humanitarian law requires that authorities do all they can to inform families about relatives who have disappeared. Through its work, the ICRC encourages States to make this a priority and to pass information rapidly to families, who otherwise endure a limbo of uncertainty.

  For further information, please contact:
  Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC Kathmandu, tel: +977 1 44 82 285, +977 1 44 92 679 or +977 985 103 46 38
  Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2405 or +41 79 217 3226
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217