memorandum by Mr Sheridan, rapporteur
“A missing person is a person whose
whereabouts are unknown to his/her relatives and/or who, on the
basis of reliable information, has been reported missing in accordance
with the national legislation in connection with an international
or non-international armed conflict, a situation of internal violence
or disturbances, natural catastrophes or any other situation that
may require the intervention of a competent State authority.”Note
1 Go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Azerbaijan or any of
the countries in Europe where there are missing persons from a conflict.
Stop any individual on the street and ask the question, “Do you
know a family waiting for information about a missing person?” Most
likely he or she will give you not only a name but a story.
2 The fate of the missing often remains unknown for decades.
This has an impact not only on the individual who has disappeared
but also on the family, friends and community of the missing. From
there, it reaches outwards to the whole of society. As long as a
person is missing, this issue will remain an open wound for all concerned,
a sore which never heals. It stops everyone from moving on after
We cannot afford to ignore the missing any longer. It is for
this reason that I have taken up this report, which builds on previous
work by the Parliamentary Assembly.Note
The international community is commemorating an important
event in 2013: the 10th anniversary of a conference organised by
the ICRC entitled “The Missing: Action to resolve the problem of
people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflicts or internal
violence and to assist their families”.Note
I hope this report can contribute to this
commemoration by assessing the progress and evaluating the challenges
we still face regarding the missing in Europe.
5 I would like to express my gratitude to the Secretariat of
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for their assistance
in preparing this report.
6 In order to focus on this subject more closely, I have chosen
to concentrate on the situation in Cyprus, the Balkans and the North
and South Caucasus where many are still missing as a result of the
conflicts over the past decades. Although the scope of this report
does not cover the issue of missing persons in Spain and Northern
Ireland, its conclusions could apply equally to these areas, as
well as other parts of Europe.
are the missing? – An overview
While preparing this report, I went on a fact-finding
mission to the headquarters of the ICRC in Geneva on 3 December
2012, where I was provided with the necessary expertise and updated
statistical information about missing persons in Europe.Note
below is a summary of the current state of affairs regarding the fate
of the missing within the purview of this report, compiled from
Number of registered missing persons
Number of exhumed remains
Number of burial sites identified
Number of remains returned to their families
Number of persons still missing
1 619 Greek Cypriots
700 (447 sites did not
contain any human remains)
285 Greek Cypriots
1 464 Greek Cypriots
Bosnia and Herzegovina
4 386 (474 for Nagorno
1 763 Georgians
1 762 Georgians
8 These statistics speak for themselves. But beneath
them are buried even more eloquent stories. I would like to share
one, in order to put names and faces to the numbers:
of Guliko EkizashvilliNote
The last time Guliko
Ekizashvili saw her son Besarioni was over 15 years ago, when he
went to join the war in Abkhazia, Georgia.
modest home on the outskirts of Tbilisi, Georgia, one wall is covered
with pictures of the handsome young man with dark wavy hair and
an intense regard who disappeared from her life a few weeks before
his 22nd birthday. “He told me ‘I have to fight for my country’”,
Eleven days after he left for the breakaway
republic of Abkhazia, his parents were informed that most of his
battalion had been killed, and that he was in hospital with an injured
knee. They took a plane to see him, but he wasn’t there. Ekizashvili’s
husband joined the fighting while she set out on foot, looking at
corpses in the forest and walking from village to village showing
his picture. She slept on benches in bus stops, eating fruit from
trees. “There was a rumour that some men were thrown over a cliff
in Tsugurovka. It’s the only place I wasn’t able to go,” she says.
Eventually she had to return to Tbilisi, but she never gave up hope.
“Just before my husband died seven years ago, he was slipping in
and out of consciousness and suddenly he said, ‘I see my son, he’s
alive’. ‘Where is he?’ I asked, but he couldn’t answer.” She breaks
off in sobs, her suffering as deep today as it ever was.
9 The absence of answers is endemic to the problem
of the missing. Not only have human beings disappeared in areas
where conflicts have taken place, but the basic facts about them
have been lost. Information that would allow the location, recovery
and identification of their remains is frequently inaccessible or
missing too. Thus the gaps in the table above also tell a tragic
10 Despite the assistance of the International Commission on
Missing Persons (ICMP) and the ICRC in enabling countries of the
Western Balkans to account for 70% of the disappeared during the
last two decades, there are still around 12 000 persons missing
in this region. In Cyprus, 40 years after the conflict, the remains of
only 355 missing persons have so far been identified and returned
to their families. Almost 2 000 families on this island are still
waiting for information regarding the fate of their loved ones and
they remain ignorant regarding the circumstances under which their
relatives disappeared. Information on the missing in the North and
South Caucasus is not progressing either: there are still up to
2 000 persons unaccounted for in Chechnya and almost 5 000 people
have disappeared as a result of the conflict over the Nagorno Karabakh
11 In addition to lost lives and identities, information is also
missing on the burial sites of these people. Even though exhumation
processes are ongoing in the Balkan region, lack of knowledge about
new gravesites and lack of strategies to address this issue have
slowed progress down considerably. In August 2012, the annual rate
of identification of missing remains was only about 900 cases for
Bosnia and Herzegovina, 100 for Croatia and 49 for Kosovo. Unfortunately,
a number of already exhumed and stored human remains in these countries are
still waiting to be identified. Indeed, if the identification of
remains in Kosovo continues at the present rate, it may take up
to 30 years to solve all cases of missing persons. In the North
and South Caucasus, the exhumation of missing persons has been further
hampered by the lack of co-operation between former conflict parties
in sharing information about gravesites.
12 Even when burial sites have been found, even when bodies are
discovered and identified, crucial evidence to convict those responsible
is sometimes withheld. In some cases, there is an evident reluctance on
the part of the local courts to pursue the matter and thus a refusal
to ensure that justice is done. The story below, of the murder of
a family in Bosnia and Herzegovina, illustrates the difficulty of
bringing perpetrators to justice, in particular when crimes remain
unpunished for decades.
of the Matanović familyNote
Matanović, the Croatian Roman Catholic parish priest of Prijedor
in north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina, was arrested by the local
Serb police on 24 August 1995 and detained in the Prijedor police
station overnight. The following day he was taken to the house of
his parents Josip and Božena Matanović, and all three were placed
under house arrest. The Matanović family remained in detention,
guarded at all times by local police officers, until 19 September
1995, when they were taken to the Urije police station. They were
not seen alive again. In September 2001 the remains of three handcuffed
bodies were found at the bottom of a well in the village of Bišćani,
near Prijedor, by Bosnian Muslim refugees who were returning home.
Forensic tests identified the bodies as Father Matanović and his
In January 2003, 11 former policemen were
charged with war crimes in connection with the illegal detention
of the Matanović family. The trial opened in May 2004 and on 11
February 2005 all suspects stood trial for the illegal detention
of Tomislav and his family, but the court rendered an acquitting
verdict based on lack of evidence. Another investigation by the
Ministry of Interior of the Republika Srpska in co-operation with
the Chief Prosecutor was still ongoing in October 2011. None of
the 11 former police officers have been charged with the murders.
13 Stories of this sort are numerous, and with still
around 20 000 missing persons in Europe, even years after the resolution
of armed conflicts, the pace of progress in identifying these people
is painfully slow. This overview reveals the urgency of the problem.
It highlights the importance of speeding up the process before it is
too late. It also demonstrates the absolute need for States to respect
their obligations under international humanitarian law to achieve
3 Why have we failed?
14 Lack of political will is the principle reason why
the remains of missing persons have not yet been returned to their
families for proper burial in regions where conflicts have taken
place in Europe. Far too few politicians in these countries ask
forgiveness for the sins inflicted by their predecessors. Far too
many still hide behind the demands of reciprocity for their efforts,
or treat victims with partiality. We will not resolve the issue of
the missing, whatever their ethnic origin, as long as it is still
seen as a political rather than a humanitarian concern.
15 This lack of will manifests itself initially in a lack of
co-ordination between former belligerent parties. Even though some
efforts had been undertaken by Balkan countries to improve regional
co-operation on the issue of missing persons, Bosnia and Herzegovina
still has not concluded bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries.
These agreements are essential to demonstrate a readiness on the
part of the authorities to continue co-operation of this kind.
16 As a result of inadequate co-ordination, data on missing persons
is often absent or incomplete. Without bilateral agreement to endorse
co-operation, former belligerent parties refuse to exchange information
on burial sites and the location of dead bodies. They sometimes
impede access to the facts or give inaccurate information about
them. Worse still, they may even use such data as bargaining chips
to exert political leverage on each other.
17 In addition to the lack of co-operation at the international
level, limited national capacity also impedes progress on the issue
of the missing. Many countries still lack qualified forensic experts
for the efficient recovery process and the scientific identification
of missing persons. Since they have traditionally relied on the assistance
of international forensic teams, many do not have enough trained
professionals in their own countries to speed up the exhumation
and identification process.
18 A lack of financial resources has also played a part in this
problem, especially in the present economic crisis in Europe. DNA
identification is very costly. Although the collection of ante-mortem
data from the families has been mainly financed by the ICRC, governments
have other priorities and do not provide the additional support
needed for the substantial budget which is required. As a result,
economic constraints have also put on hold the process of the recovery
and identification of missing persons.
19 However, apart from these causes, the fundamental reason for
the failure to resolve the issue of missing persons is fear: fear
of families to seek answers about their relatives; fear of authorities
to tell the truth about their fate. Authorities are afraid of legal
proceedings; they want to cover up the crimes of previous regimes
and put security and political stability before the right of people
to know what has happened to their loved ones. Families are afraid
of reprisals; they have no recourse to legal protection when they
demand information about the missing and are intimidated by the
possibility of further arrests, and yet more disappearances.
20 Overcoming fear and exerting political will are essential
if we are to resolve the issue of missing persons and face up to
the human cost of past conflicts in Europe.
4 What is the legal
21 International law is very clear concerning the protection
of missing persons. Both branches of the law, humanitarian as well
as human rights law, respect the right to life. They protect against
arbitrary detention and hostage-taking; they defend family life
and the right to information.
Of particular importance to the issue of missing persons is
the right to know.Note
other words, families must be informed of the missing person’s fate
and should be able to request information from the authorities. In
order to uphold this right, it is now clearly recognised that authorities
must search for persons reported missing. This includes carrying
out adequate inquiries in order to provide meaningful answers to
the families of the missing.
The legal position on this matter has been recently strengthened
by the United Nations International Convention on the Protection
of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearance,Note
which entered into force
on 23 December 2010. This convention requires States Parties to
make the crime of enforced disappearance punishable by appropriate
penalties, which take into account its extreme seriousness. So far,
only 11 member States of the Council of Europe have ratified it.Note
The legal position regarding the missing is clear and it is
for the European Court of Human Rights to impose sanctions on member
States of the Council of Europe if they fail to live up to their
obligations. There have been cases against Bosnia and Herzegovina,Note
in this regard.
There are also cases against RussiaNote
relation to the war in Chechnya. In each case where it has found
a violation, the Court has indicated general measures to be taken
to trace missing persons and to alleviate the suffering of their
relatives, and has emphasised the obligation of States to satisfy
families’ right to know about their fate. It has also specified
that this obligation is valid until a proper investigation has been
carried out, which means a State can be held accountable many years
after a disappearance occurred.
25 The more member States that ratify international norms and
the greater the number of families that take this matter up with
their national jurisdiction and the European Court of Human Rights,
the sooner the issue of the missing will be resolved.
5 What has to be
5.1 Focus on families
and their needs
26 Much needs to be done to solve the problem of missing
persons, but priority should be given to their family members. The
family members of missing persons face constant suffering until
the person's fate has been ascertained. This suffering is also often
accentuated by the multiple needs the families face as a direct result
of the disappearance.
27 These needs range from the need to know and legal recognition
of their status as victims, the need to proceed with commemorative
rituals, receive economic, financial, psychological support, and
the need to be protected against security threats and to receive
access to justice.
28 The first is the right to know. Families of missing persons
want the truth about the fate and whereabouts of their relatives.
They also want public acknowledgement of the disappearance and accountability
of those responsible for it. The problem relating to the legal recognition
of the fact of a disappearance is closely linked to the right to
29 The second is income or access to social benefits and pensions.
As the majority of missing persons are men, the main source of income
is often “gone” and women must look after their families on their
own. As a result of gaps in legislation and administrative obstacles,
families often have no access to social benefits and pensions, and
are prevented from exercising their rights under property and family
30 The third is that family members often require psychological
assistance. Many relatives of missing persons have been through
traumatic conflict events and violence, and continue experiencing
psychological distress and isolation. They need professional psychosocial
and psychological assistance, as well as medical treatment, in some
Women and children are most vulnerable, as many women are
responsible for the lives of their children and have difficulty
finding decent work. Therefore, taking into account the specific
needs of women, special attention should be given to the needs of
single heads of families.Note
5.1.1 Assessing the needs
32 Since the families of missing persons know their
needs better than anyone else, a wide variety of assessments should
be made, with the aim of understanding these needs. This would help
to identify the day-to-day difficulties they face, and ensure that
the level of response and the resources available correspond to their
5.1.2 Addressing the
33 The authorities bear the primary responsibility for
addressing the needs of the families of missing persons. Some, such
as the authorities in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, the North Caucasus
and the Western Balkans, have begun to lend their support to several
projects being run by the ICRC in these countries, in co-operation
with local partners. This new approach, known as “Accompaniment”,
is a direct response to the needs of families and ensures links
between families and the various persons and organisations providing
the necessary support within the community.
34 According to the ICRC, the main goal of “Accompaniment” is
to strengthen the ability of individuals and families to deal with
the difficulties related to the disappearance of their relatives
and to gradually recover a healthy social life and emotional well-being.
35 This is accomplished by engaging professionals as well as
ordinary people in the community. It is achieved by involving legal,
financial and forensic experts as well as social and psychosocial
health workers. Only when everyone works together in the community
can the needs of the families of missing persons be adequately addressed.
36 I am convinced that understanding families as victims should
be endorsed by all actors concerned and the families should be placed
at the centre of all actions relating to the issue of missing persons.
37 The next priority in addressing the problem and resolving
the issue of missing persons is the creation and implementation
of a legal framework. This is essential for defending the rights
of the families of missing persons and for preventing new cases.
European countries should co-ordinate their national legislation
with the relevant provisions of international law on the issue of
missing persons. They should also develop domestic laws to implement
38 Certain European countries, for example the Russian Federation
and Serbia, have carried out studies on the compatibility of domestic
law with international law on this issue. Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Kosovo and Spain have already adopted laws and special provisions
for protecting the rights of missing persons and their families.
Some countries like Armenia have worked on draft legislation, but
not completed it.
Defining the legal status of people who have gone missing
during armed conflicts, as well as that of their families, should
be a priority. Without legal recognition of their status, it is
impossible to ensure respect of their rights. Legal provisions have
been put in place by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia
to grant victims, including the families of missing persons, specific
social and financial benefits. These include pensions for the families
of missing soldiers, reduced health-care and tuition fees, child
allowances, food assistance, loans and interim relief.Note
Finally, several European States have ratified and implemented
the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which establishes
enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity. Some States
have gone further and codified enforced disappearance as a crime
in domestic legislation.Note
41 I would like to applaud these positive steps and encourage
other European States to follow these good examples. However, although
many have reached the final goal of putting in place legislation
dealing with the issue of missing persons, there is still much to
be done to ensure accountability, which can be a measure of redress
for the families of missing persons. States are obliged to investigate
and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes, who should not benefit
from any amnesty and who should not be exempted from criminal responsibility.
42 There are also other measures being taken in this direction.
Truth-seeking mechanisms of a non-judicial and transitional nature
could also contribute to the accountability process. International
commissions of inquiry constitute an important mechanism through
which cases of missing persons can be documented and recommendations
made to national authorities.
5.3 Functioning mechanisms
43 The third priority is to create competent mechanisms
to address the issue of missing persons, at regional, national and
5.3.1 National mechanisms
44 The main task of the national body in charge of missing
persons is to conduct investigations in order to give answers to
the families of missing persons on the fate of their relatives.
45 Serbia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as the Russian
Federation, have established national commissions on missing persons.
46 These commissions have had some successes in finding new gravesites
and obtaining information on missing persons. They have also established
unified central records of missing persons, as in the case of the Missing
Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some national bodies
have compiled and published, in the form of books and Internet sites,
lists of missing persons with the details of their disappearance.
Such measures reassure the families of missing persons that their
requests are followed up. Sometimes, however, these bodies have
no direct link with the families of missing persons; it is important
that families should be consulted and informed on all developments
relating to their cases.
47 What is also important is to make sure that these bodies have
the competence to co-ordinate their work with other State authorities
for all issues relating to the search for missing persons, the identification
of human remains and the protection of the rights of missing persons
and their relatives.
5.3.2 Co-ordination mechanisms
working at the regional level
48 Co-ordination mechanisms are the processes that are
put into place by former opposing parties to ensure co-ordination
and information-sharing on issues relevant to the treatment and
solving of the issue of missing persons. They are usually set up
following the end (or the freezing) of armed conflicts. For example, in
the Council of Europe, such mechanisms have been set up in Cyprus
and Kosovo, as well as between Georgia and the Russian Federation.
49 These mechanisms promote co-operation between former belligerents
in sharing information on missing persons and gathering ante-mortem
details from their relatives. Sometimes years are needed to overcome political
differences in order to start this important dialogue. In such situations,
the role of an intermediate party (an international organisation
or third State) can be essential.
50 Such mechanisms allow humanitarian issues to be separated
from political ones. They are essential because the one side relies
on the other for information on burial sites which are often on
the other side’s territory. Experience shows that co-ordination
mechanisms provide an important place for discussion and the planning
of joint efforts. They are nevertheless only as efficient as the
goodwill and real investment by the parties involved in the discussions.
5.3.3 International fora
51 There are a number of international organisations
and bodies which have an important role to play in solving the issue
of the missing.
52 At the European level, the issue of missing persons is also
addressed by international organisations such as the Organization
for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) (which assists in
the identification of recovered human remains and provides support
and assistance to the families of the missing) and the Council of
Europe (which examines the political and legal aspects). The Council
of Europe deals with the issue of missing persons at different levels.
At the level of its Parliamentary Assembly, as already mentioned,
several resolutions have been adopted relating to particular countries
or regions of Europe. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human
Rights also looks into this problem in his country reports. Finally,
the European Court of Human Rights, in its case law, deals with
violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5)
as regards the problem of missing persons.
At the United Nations level, the Working Group on Enforced
or Involuntary Disappearances was established in 1980 by the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Working Group does not have legal
authority over States, but it helps relatives of persons who have
disappeared to find out what happened to their missing family members
by acting as a means of communication between them and governments.
In more than 30 years of existence, the Working Group has examined
more than 50 000 cases from more than 80 countries worldwide.Note
The main concern of the Working Group
is the fact that most of the cases opened over 10 years ago have
still not been resolved. Many governments have not replied to the
cases sent to them, considering the missing persons to be dead.
Governments of member States of the Council of Europe should be
called on to respond more quickly to the Working Group.
54 To conclude this chapter, I would like to stress that all
mechanisms dealing with missing persons should receive sufficient
financial support from governments to ensure efficiency in performing
their tasks. They should also raise public awareness of the problem
of missing persons at both national and international levels. At present,
the interaction between different national and international mechanisms
is very limited. Relevant bridges should be built between these
mechanisms to cover the range of expected needs of the families
of the missing persons and their communities.
5.4 Access to information
55 I consider that one of the most important challenges
is to get people to come forward with information about burial sites,
as a matter of urgency. Unless action is taken, many of those with
knowledge, who are now ageing, will die without disclosing this
information. It is however clear that they are frightened to come
forward. They are frightened because they fear criminal prosecution
and stigmatisation. How can we help them overcome this fear?
56 To begin with, we need mechanisms which would allow for the
exchange of all information useful to the search and identification
of missing persons. A good example of such a mechanism is the Missing
Persons Institute (MPI) created in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This
independent body establishes an obligation for all authorities and
relevant institutions to provide information and to co-operate in
tracing missing persons.
57 However, we should not forget that the gathering of information
should respect a strict legal framework that appropriately regulates
data management. More precisely and in order to avoid any misuse
of the information provided, there should be no acquiring, holding
or using of personal data without consent. Furthermore, the data
should only be used for the purpose for which it was gathered and
not for any other purpose, unless consent to that end is also obtained.
58 If such consent is withheld, this information should remain
confidential and should not be disclosed to a third party. Only
under these conditions might sources be more willing to share the
information they possess with the mechanism in charge of missing
59 I believe that relevant information is accessible only if
confidentiality is guaranteed. The conditions under which the information
was initially provided should be respected throughout its use.
5.5 Forensic recovery
60 With respect to the management of human remains and
information relating to the dead, it is important to ensure that
all feasible measures are taken to identify the human remains and
to record their identity.
61 Several challenges arise regarding the collection of forensic
information. The process of the recovery and identification of the
missing should only begin once a framework has been agreed upon
by all those concerned. It should include the establishment of protocols
for recovery, ante-mortem data collection, post-mortem examination
and identification based on scientifically valid and reliable methods
and technologies and/or customary, clinical or circumstantial evidence
that are deemed appropriate and that have been previously adopted
by the scientific community; appropriate means of associating the
communities and the families in the recovery, examination and identification
procedures; procedures for handing over the human remains to the family.
As regards the forensic process, it requires financial and
qualified human resources, which may not be immediately available
after the conflict. Very often there is no available medical or
dental information on missing persons. Sometimes, it is not possible
to recover or identify some bodies.Note
work on forensic investigation is often linked to numerous risks
to the lives of persons involved: exposure to remnants of war, attacks
from different factions.
63 Another challenge is that of ante-mortem and post-mortem data
collection, as traditional forensic methods of searching and identification
of missing persons are very time consuming. In this respect, the progress
made in using DNA forensic science in the identification process
of missing persons should be widely promoted. It is useful to note
that the majority of missing persons in the Western Balkans were
identified by DNA analysis.
To respond to these challenges, it is important that all professionals
involved in forensic recovery respect the legal rules and professional
ethics applicable to the management, recovery and identification
of human remains. Whenever possible, the procedures to recover and
identify human remains should be carried out by forensic specialists,
taking into account the recommendations and best practices provided
by competent organisations.Note
65 Capacity building, including the training and promotion of
local forensic experts, is essential to ensure local ownership and
the necessary sustainability of required forensic operations. International
forensic teams should not limit their interventions to forensic
investigation and analysis, but also emphasise working with, and training
and promoting local teams and local forensic experts. In addition,
the creation of a national forensic team or the training of forensic
professionals who can address the problem usually leads to a general improvement
in criminal investigation procedures and, as a result, in the exercise
of the rule of law.
66 The problem of missing persons resulting from Europe’s
conflicts is still a vital issue for many European States, where
reconciliation between former conflicting parties is hampered by
the delay in investigating the fate of thousands of missing persons.
Non-resolution of this problem is a potential danger for European security,
as families of missing persons cannot live in peace without completing
their mourning. I have therefore drawn up five priorities for the
member States of the Council of Europe in solving the problem of
67 My main conclusion is that families of missing persons should
be placed at the centre of all action taken by governments.
68 The first priority for the national authorities should be
to respect the right of families to know the fate of missing persons,
as they are in charge of investigating cases of disappearances which
occurred on their territory. States should be obliged to communicate
the results of the investigation to families and to return the remains
of their relatives, whenever possible. I am pleased to note that
there has been notable progress in the development of approaches
and initiatives to ensure that families receive proper care and
support. However, there is scope for more engagement by States and
relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations to ensure
that the rights of the families of missing persons are protected
and respected at all times, and that their needs are addressed in
a comprehensive and holistic manner.
69 The second priority is the development and promotion of national
legislation. Such legislation remains essential in preventing disappearances,
ascertaining the fate of missing persons, ensuring the proper management
of information and supporting families of the missing. Member States
of the Council of Europe should create and implement the necessary
legal and administrative framework for addressing the issue of missing
70 The third priority is the creation of and support to the
functioning of national, regional and international mechanisms to
prevent and solve the problem of missing persons. European governments
should provide the necessary human and financial resources to ensure
their effective functioning.
71 I consider the access to information on missing persons as
a fourth priority issue. It is essential in establishing the identity,
location and fate of the missing. Governments should ensure that
the collection, protection and management of data on missing persons
are performed according to international standards. The data on
missing persons should only be used for purposes for which they
were collected and not for any other purpose, unless the consent
of the persons concerned is obtained.
72 This report reveals a strong need for European governments
to speed up the process of the exhumation and identification of
the remains of missing persons, and to bring the truth of their
fate to the relatives and families. Therefore, the fifth and last
priority should be the improvement of national forensic capacities.
More should be done to enhance co-operation in the use of forensic
science for the prevention and investigation of violations of human
rights and humanitarian law. The development of local forensic capacity
in line with applicable forensic good practices should be promoted,
including through regional initiatives.
73 The Council of Europe and its European Court of Human Rights
also have an important role to play in monitoring and raising awareness
of the problem of missing persons in Europe. International co-operation should
be promoted with other international and regional organisations
involved in solving the problem of missing persons.
74 I would like to underline the role of parliamentarians in
bringing the problem of missing persons to the attention of their
governments. Parliamentarians in the countries with a problem of
missing persons could push their governments to adopt national policies,
promote greater openness and develop strategies to help the families
75 Finally, I would particularly like to stress the important
role played by the ICRC in resolving cases of disappearance during
and after armed conflicts and on raising awareness of the problem
of missing persons in Europe. The ICRC should be applauded for its
work and encouraged to continue its assistance to the countries
concerned in solving the issue of missing persons.