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Reference : V-P-GE-E-00818
Date : 14/09/2016
Country/Region : GEORGIA
Caption : Tbilisi. 17 sets of human remains of persons unaccounted for in relation to the 1992-1993 armed conflict in Abkhazia are handed over to their families. Official ceremony at the Brotherhood Cemetery.
Photographer : IMEDASHVILI, Aleksander
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : In September of 2016, for the third time that year, families of persons unaccounted for in relation to the 1992-93 armed conflict in Abkhazia received answers about the fate and whereabouts of their missing loved ones. As a family member of one of the missing persons said “it was a hard day for them, but they were grateful that they would now have a grave” of their next of kin. After twenty-four years of uncertainty it was a moment of both anguish and joy for all concerned families.

Since 2010, when the ICRC succeeded to set up a Coordination Mechanism comprised of Georgian and Abkhaz participants, efforts have not been spared to tackle the issues of the persons unaccounted for. The organization is actively working with all the parties involved to address the issue. The Coordination Mechanism, which is mandated to clarify the fate and whereabouts of persons missing in relation to the 1992-1993 armed conflict, since its creation has been chaired by the ICRC by virtue of its neutral, impartial and independent mandate. Expert-anthropologists involved in the process, have been supporting exhumations and analysis of human remains of people who disappeared. The ICRC is the only organization in the world offering forensic assistance exclusively for humanitarian purposes. A Forensic Working Group was also set up to establish priorities and coordinate the work of the forensic specialists.

On 14 September 2016, 17 sets of human remains were handed over to their families in Tbilisi. The bodies had been searched, exhumed, analyzed and identified under the lead of the ICRC. Fifteen of them were exhumed in summer 2015 and the other 2 respectively in 2011 and 2014 in different locations of Georgia/Abkhazia. This event brings to 99 (including 39 in 2016) the total number of identifications reached in this context, since exhumations started in the frame of the Coordination Mechanism in 2013.

The Georgian Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees, along with the Georgian National Forensic Bureau, organized the handover of these 17 bodies. The ICRC participated in the information session organized for the concerned families, in order to present the identification reports and answer questions about the forensic process related to this specific group. The opportunity was taken by some family members to view the human remains of their beloved ones displayed in a dignified manner at the Tbilisi morgue, where the ICRC forensic expert replied to their queries. An official ceremony took place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi the next day, gathering family members, high-level officials, media and military personnel, which the ICRC also attended, and where the families relentlessly thanked the ICRC for its work. The burial took place at the Brotherhood Cemetery in Tbilisi, except for human remains of five missing persons that were taken to their family gravesites in different regions of Georgia.

Through its local partners, the ICRC provided psycho-social support to these families prior, during and after the handover, in efforts to help them cope with the family members' heavy emotional distress.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 7360x4912
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour