Major conference on persons missing because of war opens
Geneva (ICRC) - An international conference on the problem of people
who go missing during armed conflict and internal violence opens today in Geneva.
The conference, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),
brings together some 350 experts from about 90 countries in a bid to draw attention
to the largely forgotten plight of thousands of families around the world who
simply do not know what has happened to a loved one.
The ICRC hopes that the event will revitalize efforts to find out what has
happened to missing persons. One aim is to provide practical guidelines for
preventing disappearances in the first place. The experts will discuss procedures
used by States and organizations and will look for ways to meet the material,
legal and psychological needs of the families.
"We are driven in our efforts by the clear awareness gained over the years
and all around the world of how desperate the families of missing persons are
when they are unable to find out what has happened to their relatives,"
said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger. "I call on governments and everyone
else involved to take urgent and effective steps to spare other families from
enduring this pain."
The participants include legal, scientific and military experts, United Nations
officials, Red Cross and Red Crescent representatives from across the world
and representatives of associations formed by families from various conflict
areas and other non-governmental organizations. They will focus on the results
of eight preliminary workshops and three studies organized by the ICRC over
the past year.
No one knows how many people around the world are missing owing to armed conflict
and internal violence. In the twentieth century alone there were millions of
cases. These include more than 22,000 people still unaccounted for in the former
Yugoslavia, over 100,000 in Rwanda, and reportedly more than 6,000 in Peru.
In many countries, families have been waiting for years and even decades for
news of their loved ones.
Antonella Notari, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 80
Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 26
From 19 to 21 February the above-mentioned can also be reached by e-mail at