Archive for November, 2003

ICMP and UNMIK Sign MOU on Missing Persons

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Pristina on Wednesday, 26 November 2003. Representatives of family associations of missing persons from the conflict, as well high-level Kosovo government officials, including President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, and members of the Coordination Center for Kosovo, are expected to attend the ceremony. Deputy SRSG, Jean Christian Cady, will sign on behalf of UNMIK and Gordon Bacon, Chief of Staff will sign for ICMP.In an effort to help Kosovo with its missing persons issue, ICMP began its operations in Kosovo in June 1999 and completed an agreement with the Coordination Center for Kosovo (CCK) in October 2001. The new MoU will reinforce procedures between ICMP and UNMIKregarding a DNA- led identification process, with the aim of better assisting families in their search for information on the fate and location of their loved ones.

ICMP Chief of Staff, Gordon Bacon, hopes that improved cooperation will increase the speed and accuracy of identifications:

“It is the hope of both ICMP and UNMIK that by working together, we will not only increase the accuracy and speed of identifications, help bring closure to thousands of families without information on the fate of a loved one, but together we can assist in closing a chapter on the horrific acts of injustice that took place here.”

To date, ICMP has collected 8,816 blood samples, representing a total of 3263 missing persons from the conflict in Kosovo. That number will rise as ICMP collects more blood samples. In addition, ICMP has received a total of 2,657 bone samples (representing 2189 different individuals), 1,719 of which were received from UNMIK and 938 from the CCK. ICMP has also delivered a total of 915 DNA match reports back to the relevant authority from which we received the initial bone sample, representing 889 different individuals. So far 361 cases have been closed.

The new procedures involving the DNA-led identification process will come into operation immediately.

Missing Persons Issues in FYROM/Macedonia

Monday, November 24th, 2003

Gordon Bacon, the Chief of Staff of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) made a review of progress in the country towards the determination of the fate and whereabouts of all persons searched for as a result of the 2001 crisis. Mr. Bacon noted that despite assurances made by the Government, minimal visible progress has been made to date.Notably absent is any implementation of an ICMP initiative presented to the Government a year ago to establish a national process to determine the fate and whereabouts of the 20 plus missing persons. ICMP’s initiative provides for the creation of a neutral and independent coordination body that would report directly to the Prime Minister and that would include persons representing both major ethnic communities in FYROM/Macedonia.

In June the Parliament approved the creation of a Government/Parliamentary Commission, however, this commission was never implemented. In line with ICMP’s initial proposal, in August the Prime Minister announced to the families of the missing that two coordinators would be appointed in an effort to form a national process. No further action was taken by the Government.

On 16 October the Chairman of the ICMP, James V. Kimsey, sent a letter to the Prime Minister urging the immediate appointment of the two Government Coordinators. The ICMP Chief of Staff is discouraged to find that the Coordination body has not yet been created.

ICMP takes this opportunity to remind the State of its responsibility to determine the fate and whereabouts of all searched-for persons, regardless of ethnicity, religious, or other status.

Second Anniversary of the First In-Country DNA Assisted Identification

Sunday, November 16th, 2003

Today marks the second anniversary of the first DNA- assisted identification in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was made on 16th November 2001 by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). ICMP is the first organization to successfully apply a population-based, DNA-led identification process in a post-conflict environment. The use of DNA assisted identifications not only increases the speed and accuracy of identifications, but also allows identifications to be made for post-conflict cases where this may not have otherwise been possible.

It is estimated that following the conflicts in the regions of former Yugoslavia, a total of approximately 40,000 persons were missing, 30,000 of them as a consequence of the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and that of that number approximately 8,000 were men and boys missing from the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. Since 1996, numerous mass graves have been discovered and exhumed in BiH, indicating that the vast majority of those missing were killed and buried in a variety of concealed gravesites around the country. The task of identifying victims from mass graves, particularly those in which bodies were removed from one location to another, creating secondary and sometimes tertiary mass gravesites, would not be possible without DNA.

It is ICMP’s hope that by assisting BiH in coming forward with information relevant to the location of illicit gravesites, conducting exhumations and making scientifically accurate identifications, not only will thousands of families achieve closure regarding the fate of a missing loved one, but the larger society in BiH will be in a better position to truthfully assess the events of the conflicts and to move forward.
To date 15532 blood samples and 5884 bone samples have been collected relating to the fall of Srebrenica, and 2628 reports have been generated, representing 2088 individuals. In the region as a whole ICMP have collected 50751 blood samples and 13,772 bone samples. A total of 5,469 DNA reports have been generated representing 4,163 individuals.

ICMP hope that more families will come forward to give blood samples for DNA profiling, as the number so far collected is only about half the estimated number needed.