Creating a new framework of respect for the rights of missing

& dead refugees and migrants and bereaved family members

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In the course of discussions during the past few years, there have been expressions of strong support for the protocols proposed by Last Rights, including from individuals in organisations as well as practising lawyers; academics, and others whose daily tasks involve them in work with the dead and their families and searching for the missing, including police and coastguards. Although there is already support for work of this kind, and there has been some related research, no existing NGO or other body is specifically working on the creation and promotion of the protocols proposed by ‘Last Rights.’


A small consultative roundtable legal discussion was held at the London School of Economics on the 14th April 2016, with participants from Last Rights plus other human rights lawyers and academics who discussed how International Law including International Human Rights Law might be drawn upon, interpreted and developed to provide a sound legal basis for the proposed protocols, together with examples of good domestic laws. A smaller group of lawyers and academics subsequently worked on what is now the Last Rights Legal Statement. For the September 2017 version see the Links and Documents page.


In October 2017, Catriona Jarvis participated in a meeting convened by Dr. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, arbitrary or summary Executions, which followed Dr. Callamard’s presentation of her report “Unlawful deaths of refugees and migrants” to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, in which the work of Last Rights was relied on. (See our Links and Documents page for both the report and the statement).


In January 2018 Catriona Jarvis and Syd Bolton undertook a fact-finding visit to the Sonoran desert, on the Mexico/US border, where, amongst other meetings they were able to go to the Colibri Centre to hear from some of the staff there about the extraordinary work they do, in conjunction with the Pima County Medical Examiner, to support families; help identify the dead and reunite them with their loved ones. An international meeting in Mexico City followed, organised by the Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forense, attended by forensic experts and lawyers, to discuss genetic data crossing. These visits were extremely instructive for us and we have incorporated relevant learning into the work of Last Rights and will continue to do so as we progress.


All relevant sources, experiences and learning have been used as an aid to draft, in skeleton form, the protocols. A wide consultation is taking place, in electronic form for quick and inexpensive dissemination to as many relevant persons as possible, particularly those who have a practical role in working with the dead or missing and their families. The consultation is due to close on 30 March 2018. (See Consultation page for more. The draft protocols will be discussed and refined at an expert drafting group meeting on Lesbos in May 2018. See our Mytilini Page for more.

Developments to date and proposed work

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