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Switzerland: Missing Lives exhibition recalls thousands still missing in Balkans

26-08-2011 News Release 11/171

Geneva (ICRC/SRC) – Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world are looking for relatives missing in connection with conflict or natural disaster. Some have been searching for years to find out what happened to a loved one. To mark International Day of the Disappeared, the Swiss Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are opening the Missing Lives exhibition at Waisenhausplatz in Berne to draw attention to the tragedy of missing persons and their families. The ICRC's travelling exhibition will be on view from 30 August to 4 September 2011.

"Together with the ICRC, we want to draw attention to the plight of people in the Western Balkans in particular," said Annemarie Huber-Hotz, president of the Swiss Red Cross. Missing Lives is a compilation of impressive pictures by well-known photographer Nick Danziger, who has documented the suffering of relatives in their agonizing search. Since 1991, 34,000 people have been reported to the ICRC as missing in the armed conflicts in the Western Balkans alone. A hundred of these have been reported by relatives living in Switzerland. Some 15,000 people remain unaccounted for to this day.

"Uncertainty as to the fate and whereabouts of a loved one prevents families and sometimes entire communities from putting an extremely painful period in their lives behind them and looking to the future," said ICRC Vice-President Christine Beerli. "Not only in the Western Balkans, but in virtually all war-torn parts of the world, thousands of mothers and fathers, spouses, sons and daughters are waiting for news of a missing relative."

The exhibition will be opened at 5.15 p.m. on 30 August, the International Day of the Disappeared. Swiss Red Cross President Annemarie Huber-Hotz, ICRC Vice-President Christine Beerli and Berne Grand Council President Beat Giauque will speak at the launch, which will be held in the nearby PROGR cultural centre. A discussion on the subject is scheduled for 7.00 p.m. on Thursday, 1 September in the Käfigturm Forum in Berne, at which author Pedro Lenz, Kosovan poet Bardhec Berisha, and Nicole Windlin, head of the Swiss Red Cross tracing service, will take part.

The Swiss Red Cross tracing service receives 500 search requests a year, over half of which are concluded successfully. About 50% of those requests are from a person searching for someone in Switzerland. The remainder concern other countries. The Red Cross provides worldwide support for people who have lost all contact with their relatives. They can apply to the tracing service of any of the Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies in 186 countries. In their work, these services rely on the worldwide network of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The Swiss Red Cross tracing service offers enquirers personal counselling, discusses the appropriate line of action with them, and keeps them informed of progress made. In addition to the international sources of information used, the service also works in Switzerland with cantonal Red Cross branches as well as various authorities and non-governmental organizations.

At the international level, the ICRC works around the world to establish the fate of people missing in connection with armed conflict and other violence and to assist their families. Among other things, the organization has taken part in drafting the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and is working with States throughout the world to promote its ratification and implementation.

For further information, please contact:
Beat Wagner, Swiss Red Cross, tel: +41 76 372 41 84
Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 57



Missing Lives 

Missing Lives