Archive for August, 2006



Families to Mark International Day of the Disappeared

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

On the occasion of August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) would like to remind States of their obligation to address the problem of missing persons resulting from armed conflicts. Repairing the wounds of the past through truth and justice is a precondition for a peaceful future, not only for the individual relatives and victims, but also for the whole society.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared this year, representatives of the more than 120 associations of families of missing persons from former Yugoslavia have organized public events throughout the region to demand renewed efforts at addressing the missing persons issue. Bosniak, Croat, and Serb families of missing persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) drafted a joint letter to urge the authorities to fully implement the Law on Missing Persons passed in 2004.Of the estimated 40,000 missing persons at the end of the conflicts, approximately 20,000 persons from the former Yugoslavia are still unaccounted for. Despite important progress, this is an unfinished issue in the Balkans and in many other regions of the world.

ICMP’s interdisciplinary work focuses on political, scientific and civil society aspects of addressing this issue. ICMP seeks to ensure that governmental mechanisms for tracing for missing persons, such as the Missing Persons Institute for Bosnia and Herzegovina, are sustainable and can address the issue of missing persons on a political, technical and operational level.

Connected to its DNA identification efforts, ICMP has collected 81,499 blood samples for 27,420 missing individuals across the former Yugoslavia to date. Comparing these DNA profiles to the profiles from bone samples submitted to ICMP by responsible authorities, 16,087 DNA match reports have been generated for 11,100 missing individuals. Thousands of families have received information about the fate of their missing relatives, and have finally been able to bury them with dignity.

The problem of enforced disappearances is a global concern. ICMP welcomes the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council during its June 2006 session of the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” and its recommendation to the General Assembly for its adoption. The Convention affirms the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance, and the fate of the disappeared person, and the right to freedom to seek, receive and impart information to this end.

Associations of Families of Missing Persons from the former Yugoslavia express their solidarity with The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), the African Network Against Involuntary Disappearances, and the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM). The tradition of marking August 30th was initiated by FEDEFAM in the early in 1980s and has since been adopted by groups around the world.

Reparations for War Victims

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Union of Ex Camp Inmates of Bosnia and Herzegovina signed today in Sarajevo an agreement on support for a project on reparations, which includes organizing an international conference to discuss models of reparations for victims of torture and other war victims.The conference planned to take place from 15-17 September entitled “Transitional Justice: Reparations For War Victims - Models and Recommendations” should result in concrete recommendations to state institutions and other decision makers on possible types of reparations programs for war victims, including specific measures for rehabilitation of torture victims. The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees started a process in 2006 to draft a new state level law on “Rights of torture and civilian war victims.”

“There have been a lot of discussions about truth and justice, but little has been done to address the issue of reparations for victims”, said Asta Zinbo, Director of ICMP’s Civil Society Initiatives department, after signing ceremony. “ICMP supports the initiatives of civil society groups to defend the rights of war victims”, she added.

Today in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is nearly impossible for victims to obtain fair and adequate compensation and rehabilitation. Survivors of torture, including sexual violence, are not legally recognized as victims of the conflict, thus denying them the status which would enable them to exercise their rights.

“A comprehensive transitional justice policy is needed in this region. Reparations programs are a part of transitional justice and survivors groups - those who are most affected — must be informed and able to participate”, said Zinbo.

The President of the Union of Ex Camp Inmates of Bosnia and Herzegovina Murat Tahirovic expressed the hope that at the conference victims groups will “finally agree about guidelines on financial compensation, professional rehabilitation and establishment of normal life”.

ICMP believes that these groups of associations should be united between themselves and their actions should be driven by their common commitment to the truth, justice, and respect for human rights. With that approach they can be more effective partners with government in trying to make better policy.

Support for this gathering is considered part of ICMP’s ongoing project on “Approaches to Transitional Justice in the former Yugoslavia” in order to foster a deeper dialogue on existing and possible new mechanisms for dealing with the past. ICMP is grateful for financial support provided by the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs for these activities.

High Representative Visited ICMP

Monday, August 14th, 2006

During his visit to the identification facilities of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Tuzla on Monday, the High Representative, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, said he was impressed with the work that has been done in the identification of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his first visit to ICMP’s facilities, the High Representative toured the Identification Coordination Division (ICD) and the Podrinje Identification Project (PIP).ICMP uses science as tool to address one of the biggest human rights issues facing BiH today. ICMP has pioneered the use of DNA as primary tool in missing persons identification, demonstrating success on massive scale. To learn about ICMP’s scientific methods, Christian Schwarz-Schilling toured the ICMP ICD, the center which stores, archives and matches all blood samples taken from relatives of missing persons and all bone samples taken from exhumed mortal remains.

He also visited PIP which is specifically created to assist in the identification of persons missing from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica. Mortal remains of these victims are stored and examined at the PIP. Also, ICMP forensic experts conduct ante-mortem and post-mortem data comparisons, inspect the remains and assist in making the final determination of identity.

ICMP would eventually hand over the PIP to the Missing Persons Institute (MPI). This transfer will contribute to MPI addressing the issue of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a political, technical and operational level.

“ICMP is daily confronting suffering of mankind. Their work contributes to peace and justice not only for this country, but for the whole world,” said HR. Referring to the search for missing in BiH, he stated “I will do my utmost both as High Representative and European Union Special Representative to look for progress on finding mass graves.”

Out of 30,000 missing persons that were missing from the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ICMP estimates that at least half of the persons missing still need be located, recovered and identified.

“It is very important for the whole society that we continue moving forward in resolving the fate of all missing”, said ICMP’s Chief of Staff, Kathryne Bomberger who accompanied the High Representative. She underlined that “by providing empirical evidence of a person’s identity, we are leaving little room for political manipulation with numbers of missing persons.”