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The ICRC regional delegation in Kuwait

01-08-2012 Overview

The ICRC’s Kuwait regional delegation covers Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It focuses on the incorporation of international humanitarian law into national legislation and military training in countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, on the protection of detainees and on humanitarian concerns arising from the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

The ICRC began working in Kuwait at the outbreak of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. One of its main concerns is the fate of hundreds of Kuwaitis and Iraqis still unaccounted for from that conflict. As a neutral intermediary, it organizes and chairs meetings of a coordinating structure, the Tripartite Commission, and its Technical Sub-Committee, bringing together representatives of Iraq, Kuwait and the Coalition (the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia).

The aim, in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, is to establish the fate of people listed as missing so as to bring closure to their grieving families and, where possible, to recover their remains. Using the expertise of specialists from several countries, the process has made it possible to exhume and identify the remains of people who went missing. In the case of Iraqi nationals, the ICRC can facilitate repatriation.

The ICRC, working with national Red Crescent societies in the region, enables families to restore or maintain contact with relatives who are either detained abroad or otherwise separated by conflict. Detainees include those held at Guantanamo. Contact is through Red Cross messages or, where possible, by telephone calls. In other cases, "salamats" (oral greetings) are passed on and in certain instances it is possible to arrange videoconference calls. Since 2009, Iraqi families have been able to visit relatives who have been held in Kuwait since 1990-1991.

ICRC delegates visit detainees held in Kuwait and in Qatar, in accordance with the organization’s standard procedures, and make confidential reports to the authorities containing observations and, where necessary, recommendations for improvements in treatment and living conditions. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of the Interior in Bahrain, the ICRC began visiting different places of detention in the Kingdom in February 2012. The purpose of the visits is to monitor the humanitarian conditions of those who have been arrested in relation to the unrest that has taken place in Bahrain since the beginning of 2011.

In this key region of the Middle East, the ICRC gives priority to ensuring greater understanding of its role in the protection of victims of conflict and to promoting respect for international humanitarian law. Priority target groups include government officials, members of the legal profession, members of parliament and major regional organizations.

Three countries in the region have established national IHL committees. The ICRC is encouraging others to do the same, and to incorporate the provisions of international treaties into national law. The ICRC encourages the armed forces of the region to incorporate IHL into their training programmes.

Networking with the media, NGOs and religious and community leaders aims to ensure an accurate perception of the ICRC and generate support for its work, and to increase public awareness of humanitarian principles and issues.

The ICRC also seeks to strengthen cooperation with the national Red Crescent Societies in the region.



Workers exhume the remains of Iraqis killed during the 1990-1991 Gulf War from a gravesite in the Kuwaiti desert.
© ICRC / kw-e-00029