Kyiv (ICRC) – As Ukraine’s landmark law on missing persons enters into force, experts, officials and practitioners from many countries are gathering at a conference in Kyiv this week to share their experiences and knowledge of the issue with Ukrainian authorities now tasked with implementing the legislation.

The two-day conference, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on October 4 and 5, will include participants from Ukraine, as well as Colombia, Argentina, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Peru, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, all countries with a significant caseload of missing persons as a result of armed conflict or other situations of violence.

The event, the first of its kind in Ukraine, aims to facilitate Ukrainian authorities’ ongoing efforts to search for the missing, identify bodies and provide a response to the multiple needs of the families. It is estimated that there are more than 1,500 missing persons as a result of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

“Armed conflict situations result in a large number of missing persons and unidentified bodies. Those persons, with names and families, ought to be identified,” said Alain Aeschlimann, head of the ICRC Delegation in Ukraine. “While under normal circumstances, we await a loved one with positive anticipation, waiting for a loved one without knowing where they are or what happened to them can be harrowing.”

Families of missing persons can face a heavy burden of psychological stress, as well as financial, legal, administrative, psycho-social and health problems. “Communities, local actors and authorities at all levels need to show their continuous commitment to support the families,” said Mr Aeschlimann.

“The relatives of the missing have the right to know,” he added. “The process of identification is extremely important because receiving answers about their loved ones, means that families can grieve at last.”

The conference will facilitate exchanges of experience and good practices and help to catalyse efforts to establish a unified register of missing persons and a commission to bring all relevant stakeholders together for coordination and strengthening of efforts.