Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

Families of missing persons are in uncertainty, many of their questions are unanswered

August 30, 2021

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August 30 is the International Day of Missing Persons.

State bodies continue considering inexpedient to adopt the Draft Law “On Missing Persons”. 


For years on end, we have pursued proper implementation of the state’s obligations to ensure protection of the rights of missing persons and their families. To this end, more than 15 years ago, we initiated the Draft Law On Missing Persons”, which has not been adopted so far. 


Now that Armenia faces issues of hundreds of missing persons, it is vital to responsibly deal with the problems of missing persons and their families; and the adoption of the main law is pressing in terms of their solution and regulation.


Back in 2007, PACE adopted Resolution 1553 (2007) on the rights of missing persons and their family members, while Armenia - as a CoE member state - undertook an obligation to implement PACE resolutions and recommendations. PACE Rapporteur Leo Platvoet mentioned in his report that the draft law developed by HCA Vanadzor could become a good basis for the development of RA legislation on missing persons. Nonetheless, it was not an impetus for the state to implement its obligations towards missing persons at legislative level.   


In 2010, in the frame of a working group initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, HCA Vanadzor, jointly with the International Committee of the Red Cross and RA state structures, developed a draft law, which was to be discussed in the interdepartmental commission to be included in the RA National Assembly agenda. However, the draft once again  came to a standstill.


In 2015, the RA Ministry of Justice informed HCA Vanadzor that they did not consider urgent the adoption of the Draft Law. 


Their position did not change even after the latest war. In 2021, HCA Vanadzor made one more information inquiry and only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that they considered purposeful the adoption of the Law, while the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defense again considered it inexpedient. 


On 10 March 2021, for the first time, the NA discussed the need to adopt the Draft Law.


During and after the latest war, in the frame of HCA Vanadzor fact-finding mission, a number of systemic issues were identified. HCA Vanadzor currently also continues fact-finding work regarding the problems of families of persons who went missing during the second Artsakh war.  


In this frame, we have identified that 


  1. During and just after the war, it was not clear which structures dealt with issues of missing persons, there was no unified system, citizens’ right to information on the whereabouts of their relatives was not secured.

  2. Now, just as in the past, as a result of the lack of a legal status, families face many problems, and a number of legal acts were urgently adopted to solve them. However, these problems do not get a systemic solution because of the lack of the relevant Law.

  3. Families are not informed, in a consistent manner, about the conditions in which their relatives went missing, and DNA test results.

  4. There is distrust of DNA tests.

  5. State structures are, in many cases, indifferent, often unfriendly, and in some cases even provide contradictory information to family members of missing persons.

  6. Families of missing persons have social-household, health problems, a part of which they acquired after their relative went missing.

  7. Relatives of missing persons are in information uncertainty: most are afraid to apply to Court  to recognize their relative missing, as they think that after applying to Court, search operations would not continue or that they might be informed that there is a DNA test match. In such cases, the relatives take the remains despite their distrust. 


These are just a part of the problems of missing persons’ families and they can be systemically solved only by the adoption of the Law “On Missing Persons”.


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