Archive for June, 2006

Guidebook for the families of the missing to contribute to the more efficient implementation of the Law on Missing Persons in BiH

Friday, June 30th, 2006

In order to facilitate the access to information, justice and guaranteed rights to the family members of the missing persons, as well as improve the understanding of the Law on Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its practical implementation, Guidebook for the families of the missing was created.

Representatives of the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) have today presented the Guidebook at the press conference in Sarajevo, attended by the representatives of the associations of the families of the missing. (more…)

Final Repatriation of Kosovo Albanians mortal remains

Friday, June 30th, 2006

The consignment of 110 body bags with mortal remains of Kosovo Albanians is the final one arriving from Belgrade to Kosovo. From the first repatriation from Serbia in November 2002, authorities of Serbia in 19 contingents return to Kosovo 729 identified persons. Some of mortal remains are not identified, and the DNA technology of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will be applied in their cases. The ICMP’s DNA analysis was used in the process of identification of the mortal remains that Serbian authorities repatriated today to Kosovo.
These mortal remains have been exhumed from Batajnica and Perućac mass graves. ICMP anthropologists and archeologists assisted in the excavations in 2001 and 2002. With today’s consignment, all remains exhumed on Serbian proper, related to Kosovo conflict, have been repatriated to Kosovo where additional postmortem autopsy will be conducted by UNMIK before returning the bodies to families for burial.
ICMP continues to work with the Serbian authorities in charge of missing persons issues, both in relation to the 1992-1995 conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and the Kosovo conflict. Regarding the latter, ICMP has continued to stress that some 1,500 mortal remains are still unaccounted for, based on the number of complete reference blood sets which match no bones submitted to date and the number of bone samples which match no blood in the database.
“Given that the issue of missing persons in Kosovo is a politically charged one, the fact there are over 1,500 persons that are unaccounted for in 2006, as the final status talks are underway, is a serious issue,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff. She added “It is a serious human rights problem that must be honestly addressed with the families of the victims and with society.”
The work of ICMP contributes to the process of truth, justice and reconciliation. Using science as a human rights tool to resolve cases of disappearances has been successful not only in bringing individual closure to families of the missing, but in accurately documenting crimes against humanity. ICMP hopes that by using DNA technology we are providing empirical evidence of a person’s identity, so that governments can be held to account for atrocities committed.
“Resolving the fate of missing persons and facing the past will lead to better future for the whole society”, said Bomberger.

ICMP Marks Ten Year Anniversary

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) marks its tenth anniversary today. During its first ten years, ICMP has developed a unique, comprehensive and effective system to address missing persons issues around the world, combining political experience with cutting edge scientific expertise and proficiency in building civil society structures.

To commemorate the ten-year anniversary, a special event was held in Washington D.C. on June 27th and was hosted by ICMP’s Commissioners, James Kimsey (ICMP Chairman and founder of AOL), Her Majesty Queen Noor, Michael Portillo (former UK Secretary of Defence), Willem Kok (former Prime Minister of The Netherlands) and Rolf Ekeus (OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities). ICMP began events to mark the anniversary in April, with a roundtable on mechanisms for pursuing justice and human rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina and will continue with conferences, meetings, exhibitions and receptions during the coming months.

“ICMP’s work embodies the efforts of society to address the issue of persons missing as a consequence of conflicts and crimes against humanity, for the sake of truth and justice. Society has understood that mass graves are like political minefields, whether they exist in the Former Yugoslavia, South America, Iraq, or South East Asia. For post conflict societies the ability to move forward depends on overcoming the fears of the past,” said the Chairman of the ICMP, Mr. Kimsey. “During our first ten years, we have resolved the fate of more than ten thousand missing persons, helping to bring a sense of closure for their families.”

ICMP was established in the aftermath of the brutal conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the mid-1990s, where an estimated 40,000 persons had gone missing. World leaders at the G7 Summit in Lyon, France, in 1996, determined that an international commission should be set up to address the issue and ICMP was formally established on June 29, 1996. “We are establishing an international commission on the missing… to resolve the cases of missing persons, to reduce the anguish of their families, and lessen the tension between parties”, noted former US President Bill Clinton at the time.

In the late 1990’s, faced with the monumental task of identifying thousands of remains from mass graves, ICMP pioneered the use of DNA as a primary tool of identification. ICMP developed databases of DNA profiles of victims, from bones found in mass graves, and of family members, from donated blood samples; sophisticated software was also developed to compare the two databases.

Although experts at the time said using DNA to identify large numbers of persons was impossible, the ICMP system has proved enormously successful. Since the first “blind” DNA match was achieved on the ICMP system, identifying a 15 year-old boy missing from Srebrenica, ICMP has found DNA matches for almost 10,000 missing persons from the former Yugoslavia, and for nearly 1,000 victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

In the former Yugoslavia, ICMP has collected blood samples from more than 80,000 family members of the missing, related to 27,000 missing individuals.

ICMP has also successfully engaged governments in the process of resolving the fate of the missing, and helped them to develop effective policies to address the issue. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, ICMP has assisted in the drafting of the world’s first Law on Missing Persons, which obliges the Government to release information on the locations of mass graves. The Law safeguards the right of families to know the fate of a missing loved one and asserts their right to effective domestic remedies.

ICMP encourages civil society initiatives for effective engagement of family members of the missing in the representation of their interests. ICMP helps more than 100 associations of families of the missing to build organizational capacity to raise awareness, disseminate results and to articulate their concerns effectively.