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6. to issue a death certificate;
7. to make every effort to locate and notify the relatives of the dead
8. to facilitate return of the remains of the dead to their relatives if
9. where the remains are not returned to the next of kin, to dispose
of the remains in a dignified and respectful manner, appropriate to
the religious and cultural traditions of the person and bearing in
mind the wishes of the next of kin;
10. to record the location of burial and to respect and maintain
11. to treat citizens and non-citizens equally in all these actions; and
12. to provide special protection for children.9
It is these obligations that are arguably the base standard for any casualty
event. With respect to the migration issue, the 2018 Global Compact for
Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Zero Draft) does offer a glimmer of
hope.10 The compact, relying on the work of the Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, contains a commitment to
“identify those who have died or gone missing, and to facilitate communication
with affected families”.11 Although non-binding and a far cry from the
specific obligations outlined above, a hopeful reading could consider the
compact as an important first step to acknowledge shared responsibility for
dead migrants on the international scale.
Given the rise of disaster events due to climate change and the neverending
cycle of armed conflict, this is a research project that must continue.
A visit to Yad Vashem’s room of the books of the dead reveals that to this
day, 1.5 million victims of the Holocaust remain unidentified.12 It is a mark
of civilization that we treat our dead with dignity. Family members have a
right to know the fate of their relatives. Until this becomes a universally
binding obligation, this work will continue.
1. Online: <www.iraqbodycount.org/about>.
2. See International Organization for Migration, “Missing
Migrants Project”, online: <missingmigrants.iom.
int> data accurate as of April 23, 2018.
3. Previously the Recording of Civilian Casualties of
Armed Conflict project of the Oxford Research
Group, notably established by the founders of the
Iraq Body Count project. See also Susan Breau &
Rachel Joyce, “The Responsibility to Record Civilian
Casualties” (2013) 5:1 Global Responsibility to Protect
28; Susan Breau & Marie Aronsson, “Drone
Attacks, International Law, and the Recording of
Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict’ (2012) 35:2
Suffolk Transnational Law Review 255; Susan Breau
& Rachel Joyce, “Identifying and Recording Every
Casualty of Armed Conflict” (2011) 5:3 International
Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies 357.
4. Every Casualty, Standards of Casualty Recording
(2016), online: <www.everycasualty.org/downloads