Pretoria (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officially launches the new African Centre for Medicolegal Systems in Pretoria on November 8, 2022. This ceremony will be followed by the first meeting of the International Organization Consortium on Justice and Medicolegal Capacity Building in Africa on November 9 and 10.
As part of the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency, the African Centre for Medicolegal Systems aims to establish a multidisciplinary community network for African medico-legal policy makers and practitioners and to promote the importance of local medico-legal expertise in the resolution of separated and missing persons cases from conflicts, disasters and in the context of migration on the African continent. For more than 150 years, the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency has been helping people separated from their loved ones. Its multidisciplinary experts collaborate with Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world to prevent and search for missing persons, protect the dignity of the dead and address the needs of affected families.
Within the work to prevent and search for missing persons, official medicolegal systems are key to ensuring that deceased persons are properly treated and identified, and that their families are informed of their fate and whereabouts. Hundreds of unidentified bodies remain in morgues throughout the continent while communities affected by conflict, natural disasters or violence and migration, live in the constant despair of not knowing what happened to their loved ones. The African Center for Medicolegal Systems supports state’s efforts to strengthen their medicolegal systems by providing a space for relevant actors to share knowledge and promote best practices. While ICRC experts have been engaging for several years with state authorities and regional actors, the African Centre for Medicolegal Systems is the first time the ICRC has established a dedicated centre on the continent for deploying advisory services to enhance medicolegal systems.
“The centre offers states, organisations and forensic and medicolegal practitioners a designated platform to convene and collaborate in order to implement scientific rigor and expertise and ensure deceased persons are reliably and systematically identified in public systems and theatres of war, and that affected families are actively involved throughout these processes” said Stephen Fonseca, Director of the African Centre for Medicolegal Systems. The centre also supports the exchange of lessons learned between African experts and the rest of the world, and the exchange of scientific research to increase the resolution of forensic cases, to reduce the stress and suffering of those awaiting answers from medicolegal systems.
The official launch event will bring together more than 85 attendees, including members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of international organizations and civil society, the academic community from various South African universities, active medicolegal practitioners, and members of the security forces from African countries and abroad.
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