Editorials

People missing as a result of armed conflict

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7396.943 (Published 03 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:943

Standards and guidelines are needed for all, including health professionals

  1. Robin Coupland, medical adviser, legal division,
  2. Stephen Cordner, consultant in forensic pathology
  1. International Committee of the Red Cross, 19 avenue de la Paix, CH 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

    Mass graves from past or present conflicts, massacres in the Balkans, disappearances—South American style—and the missing in action are politically sensitive. One reason is that they usually entail violations of international humanitarian law (the wartime rules that protect people who are not in combat or no longer in combat) or human rights law. International criminal tribunals to try individuals believed to be responsible for the violations attract equal attention. Why these events and the reactions to them by the international community are of direct concern to health professionals is not immediately obvious, although it has been widely recognised that they have an important part to play in upholding such laws. 1 2 However, the specific roles, responsibilities, and expertise of the profession either in ascertaining the fate of the missing or in helping affected families have not been as widely recognised.

    The story of people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict or internal violence is told …

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