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Missing persons in Nepal: the right to know - updated list 2012

03-09-2012 Report

Ambiguity of loss and on the fate and whereabouts of loved ones remains a harsh reality for countless families, both during and after armed conflict or other situations of violence. With this uncertainty on whether relatives and their loved ones are alive or dead, putting the violence of the past behind remains a major challenge to families and communities.

Years after the end of the conflict, their anguish continues, hindering their ability to move on to rehabilitation and reconciliation, either as individuals or as communities. Sometimes even decades later, these wounds continue to harm the very fabric of society and undermine relationships between groups.

The 10-year conflict in Nepal (1996 to 2006) brought tragedy for many families. During the conflict, thousands of people were killed, and currently over a thousand and four hundred families still have no information on the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones. International humanitarian law requires the authorities to take all feasible measures to account for persons who have gone missing. They are obliged to do everything possible to provide families with answers on their fate and whereabouts that will end the agony of uncertainty so that they can begin mourning the loss of a beloved husband, caring father, or loving son or daughter.

Since 1999, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), supported by the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), has maintained regular contact with the families of missing persons across Nepal and has been encouraging the former parties to the conflict to clarify the fate of those who remain unaccounted for. From 2011-2012, the NRCS has taken up the lead role and responsibility of being the primary contact between the ICRC and the families of missing persons.

Over the years, the ICRC has received 3868 reports regarding the disappearance of a relative in relation to the conflict. While the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of people has been established, 1401 people are still missing, almost six years after the end of the conflict. Their families are anxious to know what happened; they need a formal answer so they can get on with their lives. Until then, they are torn between despair and hope: despair at the loss of a relative and hope that he or she may reappear, against all odds.

For four consecutive years (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011) the ICRC and the NRCS published lists of missing persons in Nepal. These lists contained 812, 1227, 1348 and 1383 names respectively. Since 2008, the ICRC has also been publishing the updated list of missing persons on its website, in English and Nepali (www.familylinks.icrc.org).

The present publication contains an updated list of 1401 missing persons, taken from ICRC records. This list is not a comprehensive one of everyone who went missing during the conflict. It only includes people whose families have approached the NRCS or the ICRC looking for information about a missing relative. Each name represents the missing person, his or her family, the suffering of that family, the statements the families provided to the ICRC, and the ICRC’s repeated representations to the authorities.

In May 2009, the ICRC published a study on the needs of the families of missing persons, as expressed by the families themselves. The picture that emerges from this study is of a group of families striving simultaneously to cope with the practical effects of the loss of their missing relative – especially the economic impact – while enduring the emotional strain of not knowing whether a loved one is alive or dead. The study shows that there is an urgent need for the Nepalese authorities to honor past public commitments to resolve the issue of missing persons. Both the families’ status and their right to know their missing relatives’ fate must be confirmed, and the families’ lack of confidence in the government’s ability or will to resolve the issue should be addressed.

The aims of this publication are to bring public recognition to the families of 1401 missing persons in Nepal and to highlight their suffering and their needs. It also constitutes an appeal to the government of Nepal,and all former parties to the conflict to clarify the fate of those who went missing during the conflict and to ensure that all families of missing persons are included in government programmes supporting the victims of conflict.