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Azerbaijan: helping families cope with the disappearance of their loved ones

26-08-2011 News Release 11/225

Baku (ICRC) – Families of persons missing in connection with the Nagorny Karabakh conflict are gathering today in Baku, Sumgayit, Masalli, Imishli, Shamkir and Barda to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August) together with representatives of the local authorities, the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan, non-governmental organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

On this occasion, the ICRC is calling on the international community to renew its commitment to addressing the plight of missing persons and their families.

"All over the world, parents, siblings, spouses and children are desperately trying to find out what happened to lost relatives," said Cherine Pollini, head of the ICRC delegation in Azerbaijan. "Families and entire communities, not knowing whether their members are alive or dead, are unable to put the violent events that have disrupted their lives behind them. There is no gesture that can reassure them, no word that can soothe their pain."

More than 17 years after the signing of the ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, over 4,500 people are still missing as a result of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. More than 3,500 families of missing persons live in Azerbaijan. To help identify the missing, ante-mortem data have been collected from the families. This process has almost been completed. The data are now being forwarded to a government agency for entry into a database.

To help the families cope with their problems, the ICRC has trained local psychologists and social workers to meet with them in group sessions, or if necessary in their homes, and provide them with care and advice.

The ICRC is working together with the Azerbaijani authorities to set up mechanisms to help determine what befell the people who went missing. The ICRC's role, based on the mandate conferred on it by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, is purely humanitarian: to help the families find out what happened to their missing loved ones.

For further information, please contact:
Shahla Gahramanova, ICRC Baku, tel: +99 412 465 63 34