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ICRC Campaigns to Trace Missing Persons in Nepal

The International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, is publishing a list of more than 800 people who disappeared in Nepal during the 10-year conflict between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

This is the first time the International Committee of the Red Cross has been able to run a public campaign to try to trace the missing in Nepal. It says the peace process between the government and Maoist rebels is making this possible.

ICRC Spokeswoman for Asia and the Pacific Carla Haddad tells VOA, it is likely there are more people missing than the 800 on the list. She says the ICRC hopes publishing the list will give incentive to other families to report missing loved ones.

"It is a way to sensitize them to do it," she said. "And sometimes in conflict situations, some families are not comfortable in reporting the fact that a member of their family, whether close or extended has gone missing."

The Red Cross is publishing the list of names in a leading newspaper in Nepal, and running TV and radio spots. The list also will be available in electronic form.

Haddad says families across the country have reported missing persons, and not knowing their fate causes great suffering.

"The issue is to clarify the state of these people, to know whether they are dead, whether they have been transferred, what has happened to them," she said. "Information on the death of someone can resolve the case in that sense, because then the family knows that the person has died, under which circumstances, and they can actually mourn the disappeared person and have a sense of closure. It is very difficult for families to have this sense of closure when they do not know anything about the fate of the missing person."

Haddad says the ICRC has several ways of tracing missing persons, including matching names on the list with those held in detention centers. However, she says, this will be a long, difficult process.