Conflicts spur alarming increase in missing persons: Red Cross

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The UN Security Council on Tuesday adopted the first-ever resolution on missing persons in conflict as the International Red Cross reported an alarming increase in cases of disappearances worldwide.

The resolution was drafted by Kuwait, which drew from its own bitter experience of seeking to account for more than 300 people still missing from the Gulf war nearly 30 years ago.

One of the biggest caseloads of missing persons is in Syria where families are searching for 60,000 people who have disappeared since the beginning of the war eight years ago, according to the International Commission on Missing Persons.

Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the council that there was "an alarming increase in cases in recent years" of missing persons.

Last year, 45,000 names were added to the ICRC's tracing lists, said Maurer, adding this figure was "the tip of the iceberg and does not convey the true extent of the problem."

Among those on the ICRC's missing list are 10,000 people from Syria and 13,000 from Nigeria, said UN aid official Rheena Ghelani.

There have been cases of forced disappearances in Myanmar, South Sudan and Yemen while the fate of many persons who went missing years or decades ago in the Balkans, Lebanon, Nepal and Sri Lanka remains unknown, she said.

The council unanimously backed the resolution urging governments to take practical steps such as setting up registries to help families searching for answers.

Drafted with help from the ICRC, the measure also supports Red Cross efforts to gain access to detention centers during conflict.

Addressing the council, Britain stressed that providing answers to the families of the missing was key to helping societies rebuild after devastating conflict.

"Long after conflict ends, families and communities are deeply affected by those who remain missing," said British Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen.

"They relive conflicts as others are able to move on."

In Nigeria, 112 of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram five years ago remain missing. In Iraq, families are searching for 3,000 Yazidis who disappeared after Islamic State fighters overran their village in 2014.