International Day of the Disappeared
Strasbourg, 30.08.2013 – On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), Vice-Chairperson for the Migration Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), stressed the importance of speeding up the solution to the problem of missing persons in all relevant states if we want to prevent future armed conflicts in Europe.
“The problem of persons still missing in Europe years after the resolution of armed conflicts – 20 000 according to estimates, mainly in the Balkans, the Northern and Southern Caucasus and Cyprus – is still a major issue for many European states, where reconciliation between former conflicting parties is hampered by the delay in investigating the fate of missing persons,” said Mrs Strik.
“As long as a person is missing, this issue will remain an open wound for all concerned. As if lost lives were not enough, there is no information about where these people are buried.”
“If the remains of missing persons have not yet been returned to their families in regions where conflicts have taken place in Europe, that is due to a lack of political will. But one of the fundamental reasons for the failure to resolve the issue of missing persons is fear: fear of families to demand answers about their relatives, and fear of the authorities to tell the truth about their fate. It is essential to overcome these fears,” she added.
“The families of missing persons should be placed at the centre of all actions taken by governments. States are obliged to communicate the results of their investigations to families and to return the remains of their relatives whenever possible. They should be responsive to the need of families to obtain legal recognition of their status as victims and to their need to receive financial and psychological support, be protected against threats to their security and have access to justice,” Mrs Strik concluded.
A debate on missing persons from Europe’s conflicts based on Jim Sheridan’s (United Kingdom, SOC) report will be held during the next PACE session in Strasbourg (30 September-4 October 2013). On that occasion, an exhibition on “150 years of humanitarian action: ICRC action from 1863 to present day” will be held in in the lobby of the PACE debating chamber.