Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in the South Caucasus governed by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, an unrecognized state, established by referendum in 1991. The population then was 76% Armenian and 23% Azeri. Internationally the region is recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The resulting war between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan caused thousands of casualties on both sides. Approximately 5,000 people are believed to have gone missing.
The Azerbaijani and Karabakh authorities established State Commissions to address the issue of the missing, and from 1995, an International Working Group, made up of representatives from Germany, Russia and Georgia, supported efforts to exchange information, and to arrange the exchange of prisoners and of mortal remains between the two sides. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also supported efforts to clarify the fate of missing persons and has offered psychological and vocational support as well as material assistance to families of the missing.
In addition to UN agencies and the OSCE, a number of international NGOs, including the Helsinki Citizens Assembly and the Inter Church Peace Council IKV of the Netherlands have been active in the territory and there has been significant development of associations of families of the missing. In August 2003 the first visit of mothers from Azerbaijan to Armenia was organized.