ICRC action on missing persons worldwide

In over 70 countries and territories around the world, the ICRC has files open on people who have disappeared. We call them "open tracing cases," but behind every "case" is a family desperate to know what has happened. And they have a right to know, enshrined in international humanitarian law.

The boundaries and names shown, and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Content

  • Central America and Mexico

    Click to read more about missing persons in Central America and Mexico

     

    Campaign image for the 2014 International Day of the Disappeared in Guatemala.

    © ICRC / Guatemalan Red Cross

    • Migrants from Central America and Mexico attempting to cross the US-Mexican border often lose contact with their families.
    • In 2013 more than 3,300 migrants in Guatemala, around 7,800 in Honduras and 895 in Mexico called their families from ICRC-funded phone stations run by the Red Cross Societies of each country.
    • Families continue to search for information on relatives missing in connection with migration, past conflicts and current violence.
    • Hundreds of unidentified bodies are buried every year, and the ICRC is working with the authorities to reduce the number of bodies buried without being identified.
    • In Guatemala, families of missing persons receive financial or logistical support for exhumations and burials from the ICRC. With ICRC support, 14 civil society organizations have collected the records of some 11,000 people missing since the armed conflict.

     The ICRC in Central America and Mexico
     Restoring family links in Mexico

     

  • Côte d'Ivoire

    Click to read more about missing persons in Côte d'Ivoire

    Côte d'Ivoire. A woman displays the ID card of her missing father.
    © ICRC / J. Fatton

    Decades of conflict and crisis in Cote d’Ivoire have resulted in many disappearances. Post-electoral violence in 2011 led to the forced disappearance of some 300 people, according to Ivorian authorities, UN institutions and NGOs. Many more may have disappeared due to the turmoil and displacements linked to the conflict.

     

    What the ICRC is doing:

    • searching for people who have disappeared and speaking to the authorities about the issue;
    • making recommendations to the authorities regarding compatibility between Ivorian legislation and international law;
    • sharing expertise and providing support for exhumations and the identification of remains at unmarked gravesites.

     The ICRC in Côte d'Ivoire
     Restoring family links in Côte d'Ivoire

     

     

  • Colombia

    San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia. More than 200 relatives of missing persons have
    participated in workshops and interviews where they could explain what they need.

    © ICRC / E. Alfonso

    More than 92,000 people have been reported missing in Colombia over the years. As of mid-2014, around 68,000 of them are still missing.

    What the ICRC is doing:

    • holding meetings where families of missing persons can meet and receive counselling;
    • covering travel expenses so families can attend identification procedures and collect their relatives' remains;
    • advising the authorities on registering and searching for missing persons;
    • promoting coordination between organizations;
    • reminding parties to the conflict and other armed groups about the rules prohibiting concealment of information on missing persons;
    • providing training on the management of human remains;
    • facilitating proper management of unidentified bodies in cemeteries.

     Ausencias [Spanish only] 

     Rap for the disappeared

     Colombia: Two women search for their missing relative

     Llena el vacio ["filling the void" - Spanish only]

     Disappearances in Colombia – Living in the grip of uncertainty

     Desaparición en Colombia: situación humanitaria y acción del CICR en 2013 [Spanish only]

     Colombia: Disappearance (extract from ICRC annual report on Colombia 2013)

     The ICRC in Colombia

     Restoring family links in Colombia

  • Georgia/Abkhazia/South Ossetia

    Click to read more about missing persons in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    Tserovani, Georgia. A brother and sister show an ICRC psychologist photos of their mother
    who disappeared in 2008 and whose body was identified and returned to the family in 2011.

     

    The 1992-1993 Abkhazia conflict and the South Ossetia conflicts of 1989-1992 and 2008 have left over 2,000 families not knowing what happened to a relative.

    The ICRC has helped set up two coordination mechanisms to provide them with answers:

    • Under the Georgian/Abkhaz mechanism, the remains of more than 120 people who disappeared during the Abkhazia conflict have been exhumed and sent for identification. So far, the remains of 19 people have been handed over to their families.
    • The Georgian/South Ossetian/Russian mechanism has so far resulted in the remains of 14 missing persons being exhumed, with six sets of remains being handed over to families.

    We have also given over 1,000 families psychosocial and legal support, together with cash grants and business training.

     

     The ICRC in Georgia
     Restoring Family Links in Georgia

     

  • Iraq

    Click to read more about missing persons in Iraq

    Basra, Iraq. Jabar Mehdi holds a photo of his brother, then still "missing" but now known to have been killed.

     

    • Over 58,000 Iraqi soldiers were reported missing following the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The ICRC chairs two international mechanisms set up to clarify their fate, and in 2014, these efforts made it possible to exhume the remains of 194 Iranians and 144 Iraqis.
    • Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis disappeared during the regime of Saddam Hussain. Over 25,000 more went missing following the fall of the regime in 2003 and the political violence that followed.
    • An ICRC survey of 169 families of missing persons conducted in 2013 highlighted their economic, psychosocial, legal and administrative needs, their need for acknowledgement of their suffering and the need not to forget.
    • The current crisis is causing still more people to disappear. ICRC tracing and detention teams in the field are documenting disappearances and supporting families.

     

    /interactive/settings/2014-08-day-disappeared/icon-document.png Missing persons: Focus Iraq

     Iraq: Supporting families of missing persons

     The ICRC in Iraq

     Restoring family links in Iraq

  • Lebanon

    Click to read more about missing persons in Lebanon

    Lebanon: ICRC staff interview relatives of missing persons.
    © ICRC

    Thousands have gone missing in Lebanon since conflicts began in 1975.

    • In 2013, the ICRC conducted a study of 324 families to find out what the families of missing people really need. We submitted the study plus recommendations to the authorities, and published a public version.
    • The study revealed that most missing persons (82%) were civilians, and only 16% were combatants. Most of the disappearances occurred between 1975 and 1976 or between 1981 and 1986. For 37% of the families, the most important thing was to find out what had happened to their relatives.
    • In 2012, the ICRC started to collect ante-mortem data from the families of missing persons. So far, we have interviewed 1,500 families.

     Lebanon: ICRC calls for data on missing persons

     The ICRC in Lebanon

     Restoring family links in Lebanon

  • Nepal

    Click to read more about missing persons in Nepal

    Bardiya District, Nepal. Sobha Rani Tharu, whose husband disappeared in 2002.

    © Geoff Oliver Bugbee

    The 1996-2006 conflict in Nepal between the government and Maoist fighters has left over 1,300 people still registered with the ICRC as missing. The list of missing persons is on the Nepal Page of the Family Links site.

    In 2010, the Nepalese Red Cross, the ICRC and local NGOs launched a project to support the families of missing persons. So far, almost 1,000 families have benefited.

     

     Nepal: Don't go so far

     The Disappeared (World Ark Magazine)

     The ICRC in Nepal

     Restoring family links in Nepal

  • Papua New Guinea

    Click to read more about missing persons in Papua New Guinea
    • In 1989, a conflict started in Bougainville that was to last nearly a decade. It began with opposition to the Panguna copper mine and escalated into a violent campaign for independence.
    • The "Bougainville Crisis" saw armed groups pitched against the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in the Pacific region's worst conflict since World War II. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people died. An unknown number went missing.
    • Since 2012, the ICRC has been working with the governments of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and of Papua New Guinea on the issue of people who went missing during the conflict.
    • In 2014, we organized a remembrance ceremony for families in Sirovai, Central Bougainville, to honour relatives who died at sea during an incident involving the Papua New Guinea marine forces in 1993.

                Papua New Guinea: Families of missing persons must have answers

             Workshop on people missing since 1989 Bougainville crisis

             Program in place to support Bougainville families

             The ICRC in Papua New Guinea

             Restoring family links in Papua New Guinea

    Sirovai, Central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Families come together for a sea burial.

    © ICRC

     
  • Peru

    Click to read more about missing persons in Peru

    Peru. Relatives of missing persons hold up pieces of the scarf they have knitted to commemorate their loved ones.

    © Marina García Burgos

    • During the 1980s and 1990s, Peru experienced a violent armed conflict involving the Shining Path, the Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru and the government.
    • More than 15,000 people are missing, but only 11 percent of them have been identified.
    • For almost 10 years, the ICRC has been promoting forensics training, assessing forensic capabilities, providing technical advice and helping the families of missing persons.
    • The ICRC also makes sure that families receive psychosocial support, and is helping enhance the ability of government bodies to provide it.
    • The Desvela collective has brought together families of missing persons to knit a "chalina" (scarf) measuring more than a kilometre, through which they remember and pay tribute to their missing relatives.

     Peru: Search for the missing

     Peru: Knitting for hope in Ayacucho

     Peru: The tireless search for a missing family member

     Peru: Relatives of missing persons search for clues

     The ICRC in Peru

     Restoring family links in Peru

  • Sri Lanka

    Click to read more about missing persons in Sri Lanka

    A family visits an ICRC office to receive financial assistance so they can visit a detained relative.

    © ICRC / G. Bruyninx

    • Hostilities between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had been fighting for an independent Tamil state for nearly 30 years, ended in May 2009.
    • The ICRC has more than 16,000 missing persons on its records, including more than 5,000 servicemen and policemen.
    • In 2014, the government agreed that the ICRC should conduct an assessment with the families of missing persons. This will form the basis of a proposal regarding ways of providing economic, legal, administrative and psychosocial support.
    • The Sri Lankan government has established a commission to investigate reports of missing persons. It is also conducting a survey, with a view to compiling a list of missing persons and possibly setting up a compensation scheme.

     Sri Lanka: Helping those who need it most

     The ICRC in Sri Lanka

     Restoring family links in Sri Lanka

  • Tajikistan

    Click to read more about missing persons in Tajikistan

    Rushon, Tajikistan. The ICRC and the Tajikistan Red Crescent Society interview the family of a missing person.

     

    Thousands of families in Tajikistan still do not know what happened to relatives who went missing as a result of the Second World War, the country’s non-international armed conflict and migration.

    What the ICRC is doing:

    • comparing Tajik legislation with international rules regarding missing persons, resulting in recommendations that could serve as the basis for changes to Tajik law;
    • working with the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan to identify the needs of the families of missing persons.

     The ICRC in Central Asia

     Restoring Family Links in Tajikistan

  • Uganda

    Click to read more about missing persons in Uganda

    Uganda. Families react to hearing the names of their missing relatives during a remembrance ceremony for abductees.

    © ICRC

     

    • Some 75,000 people were abducted in northern Uganda between 1986 and 2006 as a result of the war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan army.
    • The fate of several thousand remains unknown, with the ICRC estimating that more than 12,000 may still be missing.
    • The families of these missing persons continue to live in uncertainty, unable to truly mourn, hoping they may return. An ICRC programme is helping them cope with their pain and find comfort in each other.

     Uganda: The ambiguity of disappearance

     The ICRC in Uganda

     Restoring family links in Uganda

     

  • Western Balkans

    Click to read more about missing persons in the Western Balkans

    Belgrade, Serbia. Families of missing persons attend a ceremony on 30 August marking the International Day of the Disappeared.

    © ICRC

    • The ICRC registered more than 34,000 people as missing in connection with conflicts in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. More than 23,000 cases have been resolved, but over 11,000 families still do not know what happened to a missing relative.
    • Most of those cases relate to the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with over 7,200 still unaccounted for. For Croatia and Kosovo, the figures are approximately 2,180 and 1,710 people respectively.
    • The ICRC has created mechanisms to enable the authorities to honour the families’ right to know what has happened to their relatives.
    • We have also drawn up lists of missing persons in the hope of gathering further information from the public.

     

     Western Balkans: Authorities must support families of missing persons

     Missing Lives – Book and photo exhibition

     The ICRC in the Western Balkans

     Restoring family links – Bosnia conflict

     Restoring family links – Croatia conflict

     Restoring family links – Kosovo crisis