International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

In This Issue:
August 30th: Day of the Disappeared
Yemen: Civilians Continue to Face Hardship
Congressional Staff Travel with the ICRC to Uganda
The Welcome Department Welcomes You!
The latest ICRC news from around the globe

Missing People, DNA Analysis, and Identification of Human Remains: A Guide to Best Practice in Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of Armed Violence

Missing people, DNA Analysis
This guide, published in 2005, provides guidelines for achieving best practice when faced with constraints during the process of identifying human remains in the wake of a conflict. Constraints, such as security and lack of resources, may limit or even preclude the use of more sophisticated technologies.

The ICRC: Its Mission and Work
Click Here to Download Report. 
ICRC's Mission and Work 
This new brochure explains the ICRC's mission, identity, legal foundations, and scope of action. It also provides the readers with an overview of the ICRC's varied activities and how they are implemented. This useful reference text is available in English, French, and Spanish.
Water and War: ICRC Response
Water and War: ICRC Response
This updated publication looks at key water and sanitation issues in conflict-affected countries where the ICRC works. It analyzes challenges from the point of view of operational practice. 

Our World At War: On the Move
DRC - Ron Haviv, Our World at War
In collaboration with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and the Loyola University School of Communications, Our World At War will open to the public in Chicago on September 25. The exhibit will be located in the lobby of the School of Communications, 51 East Pearson Street, through November 20.
The exhibit will then travel to Ann Arbor, MI in partnership with the Washtenaw County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Stay tuned to this space for more dates and locations.
ICRC Mission
The ICRC is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. 
Join Our Mailing List
News and Notes
September 2009

This month the ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada welcomes our new Head of Delegation, Mary Werntz. She comes to us from Nepal where she served as Head of Delegation since 2006. Former Head of Delegation Geoff Loane has now taken up residence at the ICRC's office in London. Thank you to everyone who shared in the send-off and welcome celebration on September 11, and thank you to the American Red Cross for its hospitality and for sharing its Board of Governors Hall for the evening.
We also share with you this month an interview with Morris Tidball-Binz, ICRC's forensic doctor, on the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, as well as a report on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. Please also find below an overview of the recent trip to Uganda that ICRC organized for congressional staff and other U.S. government representatives, and a look at an indispensable part of any ICRC delegation, the Welcome Department. 
As always, for the latest news, please consult our website at
Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
August 30th: International Day of the Disappeared 
Morris Tidwell-Binz, ICRC forensic specialistOn the International Day of the Disappeared, August 30th, the International Committee of the Red Cross wants to bring attention to the suffering of families of missing persons, due to uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones who have disappeared as a result of armed conflicts or internal violence. International humanitarian law requires that authorities do all they can to inform families about relatives who have disappeared. Through its work, the ICRC encourages States to make this a priority and to pass information rapidly to families, who otherwise endure the limbo of uncertainty. 
This excerpt of an interview with Morris Tidball-Binz, an ICRC forensic doctor, reviews the role of forensics in clarifying the fate of missing persons. He will be in Washington, DC, on September 24 and 25 to attend and present at the First Meeting of Specialists in Forensic Research, hosted by the Organization of American States. The full interview is available here.

One does not normally associate forensics with humanitarian action. How does this science help the ICRC to fulfill its humanitarian mandate?
Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must ensure the proper and dignified handling of human remains and help clarify the fate of missing people. Forensic sciences are recognized as indispensable for the proper recovery, handling and identification of dead people reported missing, as well as for identifying the living.

The ICRC is the only humanitarian organization with forensic expertise. It has a team of experts specialized in investigating cases of missing persons that offers technical advice and supports forensic capacity building to help provide families with answers.

How can forensic sciences contribute toward clarifying the fate of missing people?

Forensic sciences can provide objective answers about the identity and fate of missing people, whether they are dead or alive. These sciences rely on several disciplines, increasingly used in combination by multidisciplinary forensic teams. Among these disciplines are anthropology and archaeology, pathology, finger printing, dentistry and genetics, including forensic DNA analysis. Accomarca district, Peru. Exhumation in progress.Each of these sciences can help uncover key information necessary for identifying a missing person.

Where is forensics being applied to identify people and are there any contexts where has it been most successful?

The problem of missing persons is universal. Wherever there has been an armed conflict, people have gone missing. The problem can last for generations. A case in point is Spain, where families are still searching for answers about their loved ones missing as a result of the civil war, and using forensic sciences increasingly to recover and identify human remains.
International Commission on Missing Persons centre, Tuzla.In the Balkans thousands of missing people have been recovered and identified through large-scale forensic investigations using novel forensic methods and technology.

In the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Lebanon, are making remarkable efforts to provide answers to families who lost relatives as a result of armed conflicts in the region. Investigations continue in several countries of Latin America, such as Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, and Peru. Many countries in Africa, including Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and South Africa, have launched forensic initiatives. The search for missing persons in Asia has included forensic investigations in several countries, including East Timor, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

In most countries and contexts where investigations are underway for the search of missing persons, the ICRC offers technical advice and supports forensic capacity building. The objective is to help bring answers to grief-stricken families and uphold their right to know.

Yemen: Civilians Continue to Face Hardship
More than three weeks of intense armed confrontations in northern Yemen have left the civilian population in parts of Sa'ada, Amran, and Jawf in dire need of food, shelter and medical care. Access to the affected people remains difficult because of ongoing fighting.
Displaced girl in Khaywan, Al Hamra district, Amran governorate.Fleeing the fighting has become a recurrent feature of the lives of some civilians, who have had to deal with the danger of getting caught in the fire zone many times since 2004. "Five years of fighting have placed a considerable strain on people's lives," said Martin Amacher, the acting head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. "Civilians are now having to experience not only the direct impact of the fighting currently under way but also the cumulative harm, in terms of personal security and economic, physical and psychological well-being, of many years of fighting."

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society continue to provide the displaced population in Amran and Sa'ada with food, clean water, medical care and other essentials. However, access remains difficult as the fighting continues. It is imperative that all parties involved in the fighting take all measures necessary to spare the lives and property of civilians. Respect for principles of international humanitarian law becomes more urgent by the day.
To read more about ICRC's activities in Yemen, click here.
Congressional Staff Travel with the ICRC to Uganda
ICRC's Molly Gray leads a group of congressional staff to Uganda.During the week of August 24, the ICRC organized a field visit of U.S. government officials to Uganda. The purpose of the visit was to demonstrate the range of ICRC's activities in the field and to bring attention to humanitarian needs in Uganda. Participants included five senior Congressional staff covering foreign policy, defense, or appropriations issues for Members of the U.S. Congress, as well as representatives from the Congressional Research Service and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. 
The ICRC has been present in Uganda since 1979 due to the years of armed conflict between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. Since the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in August 2006, internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the conflict are slowly returning home. The ICRC continues to assist about 500,000 IDPs, facilitating this return and helping them meet basic needs.
Some highlights of the field visit included travel to the northern districts of Gulu and Kitgum to witness the renovation of the Kitgum Hospital and Bibia Health Centre, discussions with beneficiaries of ICRC economic security projects, and a tour of the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The ICRC works there with the Uganda Red Cross Society to restore communication between family members who have fled to Uganda with their relatives who remain in DRC. 

The Welcome Department Welcomes You!
Welcome Department: Megan Selland and Clare TaylorNearly every ICRC delegation around the world has a Welcome Department, including the Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada. But just what is a Welcome Department? How does it function? and who are the people behind the name? Megan Selland and Clare Taylor fill us in.


Describe what a Welcome Department does in the ICRC.
We do as our name implies, welcoming visitors and managing the office's reception area. Our work begins before guests arrive and continues for the duration of a trip, as we want to ensure that our visitors are comfortable and familiar with their surroundings. We are responsible for arranging travel for the delegation's staff to anywhere in the world their work may require. We also complete a variety of general office tasks and provide support to other departments.
Of all your duties, what keeps you most busy?
Arranging travel for the ICRC's visits to Guantanamo is by far the most complicated logistical undertaking of this Welcome Department. We use a large board to track inbound and outbound flights to the island, for sometimes up to 26 people at a time. We have been doing four regular visits every year. Currently, the visits require experts in eight languages who come from ICRC delegations the world over, for example, Algeria, Switzerland, Tunisia, and Yemen. Managing all the flights and logistics, and accounting for schedule changes and delays, occupies the majority of our time. In addition, a Welcome representative participates on some trips to Guantanamo, ensuring that travel goes smoothly for the delegates coming from afar and providing support to the protection team members.
Tell the readers about a particularly interesting travel occurrence during the past two years.
The Welcome Department's participation on a one-week trip to Guantanamo was extended for a second week due to five hurricanes passing the island in quick succession. The weather forced our office to close temporarily, meaning all work had to be stopped and the interviews with detainees had to be rescheduled. To pass the time, the team kept a checklist of the storms' names and tracked their progress from the local hotel where we were locked down for some days during the worst of the weather. We prepared meals from the non-perishable items available, sometimes with a side of fries from the McDonald's on the naval base.