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ICRC urges action on Iraqi missing persons
Up to one million Iraqis estimated missing, as thousands of dead bodies remain unidentified.

Middle East Online

Auugst 30, 2007

GENEVA - Iraq is country where the fate of missing persons is extremely difficult to ascertain after decades of war, lawlessness and deprivation, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

According to Iraqi public sources, the number of people missing since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 -- and up to and including the period of the subsquent 1991 Gulf War and the US-led invasion of 2003 -- is between 375,000 and one million.

Official Iraqi sources say that from early 2006 to mid-2007 alone, some 20,000 bodies were brought to Baghdad's Medical-Legal Institute with around 50 percent still unidentified -- indicative of the scale of the problem in the conflict-riven country, the ICRC said.

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of operations at the ICRC called on state and non-state actors to show more respect for civilians, war wounded and detainees in conflict situations, and to implement better systems of information management such as prisoner registration.

In accordance with its strict principles of neutrality, the ICRC does not get involved in the reasons why people may have been detained, but stresses that all detainees have the right to humane treatment which includes being in contact with their families.

"Whatever the reason may be and whatever the justification that may be presented by a given actor ... for a detention, there is no right to deprive the family from information about their fate and whereabouts," Kraehenbuehl said.

The United States has come under fire in recent years for holding hundreds of detainees without trial at its military camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as for establishing CIA-run "secret prisons" in Eastern Europe away from international scrutiny and outside the remit of the Geneva Conventions.

The prisons were part of a "global spider's web" of detentions and illegal transfers spun out around the world by the United States and its allies after the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a report published earlier this year by the Council of Europe.

"We remain concerned about the possible maintenance or resumption of any type of secret detention ... that detention would be contrary to a range of safeguards provided for under the relevant international standards," Kraehenbuehl said.


:: Article nr. 35821 sent on 30-aug-2007 22:38 ECT

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Link: www.middle-east-online.com/english/iraq/?id=21920



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