Family Members Feel They Are Not Being Heard In Truth and Reconciliation Process

Article posted on October 21, 2004

Family members of the missing and victims’ groups feel it is still too early to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Bosnia Herzegovina, they told participants at a two-day conference on “Mechanisms for Truth Seeking and Documentation,” organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to encourage an exchange of views on possible steps towards reconciliation.”The family members and other participants at the conference clearly agreed that the first priority should be to clarify the fate of the missing, to exhume the remains and to identify them and give them a decent burial,” said Asta Zinbo, ICMP’s Director of Civil Society Initiatives Program.

ICMP organized the conference so that families associations and victims groups could be better informed about the truth and reconciliation process and so they could share their views and opinions. “Our goal was to create an opportunity for these groups talk to each other and for them to be able to form their own conclusions about what they think is needed,” Zinbo added.

Representatives of victims groups and Associations of Families of Missing Persons said the ICMP conference had given them an important opportunity and that they should have more input in the truth and reconciliation process. Agreeing that such a process was important and that to have a healthy future a society must face up to the past, participants noted that there should be more community-level efforts.

Also addressing the conference, Jakob Finci of the Association of Citizens for Truth and Reconciliation in BiH said he hoped a law to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would soon be adopted, but that it should be “An expression of citizens and the parliamentary assembly about what should be done to prevent these conflicts from happening again. To learn how to swim we must jump into the water.”

Other participants included members of the Republika Srpska Government Commission For Investigation of the Events in and Around Srebrenica Between 10th and 19th July 1995; Natask Kandic of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade; and Suzanne Bardgett, project Director of the British Imperial War Museum’s Potocari “Memorial Room” project.

The Conference was organized as part of the ICMP project “Approaches to Transitional Justice in the former Yugoslavia: Creating Links with Associations of Families of Missing Persons.” With financial support from the Swiss Government, the project aims to promote dialogue between survivors groups and other NGOs, decision makers and the public. It also aims to help groups work together to make policy recommendations to state institutions and other decision makers.