Archive for ????, 2003

Conclusions of Associations of Families of Missing Persons for Former Yugoslavia

???????, ???? 19th, 2003

The Seventh Regional Conference on Missing Persons Issues for associations of families of missing persons was held in Sarajevo from 16 May 2003 to 19 May 2003 at the Hotel Saraj, Sarajevo, organised by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

This conference was attended by more than 75 family association representatives, members of Government Commissions on Missing Persons from the former Yugoslavia, and other institutions concerned with the missing persons issue.

For the first time, family associations and government representatives from Macedonia participated in the regional conference. Despite being the first time that opposing sides to the conflict in Macedonia had met, they agreed on joint activities in the future and recognised that they could learn from families who already had such experience of cooperation.

Associations discussed common issues regardless of religious or national background, and concluded that they will be stronger if they work together on lobbying responsible government authorities, improving exchanges of information and on coordination between associations. This should all be on a local and inter-entity basis as well as on a bi-lateral and regional level.

Participants of the conference appealed for more support from governments and international organisations in addressing the rights of family members of the missing, not only in establishing the truth about the fate of their loved ones, but also in improving the social and economic conditions of families. Families had an opportunity to hear an update from a representative of BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees on the process for the drafting of a Law on Missing Persons in BiH, which is being developed at the request of the families. Representatives from other countries in the region will recommend similar initiatives to their governments.

The families were pleased with the progress on DNA identification and recommended closer cooperation within and between countries in the region in order to bring answers to families more quickly. Family associations agreed to continue their efforts to educate relatives of the missing about the identification process and the need to provide blood samples.

Conclusions and recommendations were presented to members of the ICMP Board at a meeting on Monday, May 19th, 2003 from 9:00 - 10:00 at the Hotel “Saraj” in Sarajevo. These included Mr. Michael Portillo, former Secretary of State for Defence of Great Britain, Mr. Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan, former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, and Willem (Wim) Kok, former Prime Minister of The Netherlands.

Repatriation of the first group of identified Kosovo Albanians found in Serbia

??????, ???? 8th, 2003

Today, 8 May 2003, the first group of 37 remains of killed Kosovo Albanians was handed over from the Coordination Centre for Kosovo and Metohija based in Belgrade to the representatives of UNMIK in Kosovo. The handover of bodies took place at the border crossing in Merdare at noon. The mortal remains were recovered from sites in Batajnica, near Belgrade, where the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) estimates a total of 700 mortal remains were recovered during 2001 and 2002.Since the first mass graves of Kosovo Albanians were uncovered near Belgrade in the summer of 2001, ICMP has endeavored to make certain that these mortal remains were exhumed and identified as fast as could be done in a scientifically accurate manner.

With permission from the Serbian government and the appropriate local courts, ICMP has monitored the exhumations process in Serbia since 2001. ICMP anthropologists, archeologists and recovery monitors were present at almost every exhumation site. ICMP sent three of its forensic anthropologists to Belgrade, to coordinate with and assist the Coordination Centre for Kosovo and Metohija with the preparation for the transfer of these persons to Kosovo. Through a grant agreement signed with the Coordination Center in 2001, ICMP ensured that funding was made available and provided technical supplies for the entire process. ICMP has received almost all of the bone samples taken for DNA analysis from the Batajnica sites, as well as Petrovo Selo and Banja Basta. In addition, ICMP has collected and DNA profiled over 7,000 blood samples from family members with missing loved ones from the conflict in Kosovo.

To date, ICMP laboratories have generated 227 DNA match reports for cases of Kosovo Albanians exhumed in Serbia. Of these, 193 have already been submitted to the Coordination Centre for review and coordination with UNMIK on closing of cases. The first 37 Kosovo Albanians to be repatriated are from this number. ICMP has also submitted 235 DNA match reports to UNMIK of mortal remains exhumed in Kosovo.

ICMP has offered on-going support for activities of associations of families of missing persons. On May 8, the Coordination of Kosovo Albanian Family Associations organized a gathering of families of the missing to be present at the Merdare border with Serbia at 12:00. The families brought flowers and conducted a short ceremony while waiting for the bodies of their relatives.

Mr. Sheremet Ademi, president of the Kosovo Coordination Council of Families and of the Foundation Kujtimi in Mitrovica stated,

“Thanks to the professional work of ICMP and other organizations who are dealing with this issue, families will finally understand the truth and conduct re-burials with dignity, even though the truth is very bitter for them.”

Mr. Lush Krasniqi, president of the association “27 April Meja” based in Gjakova stated,

“Following this initiative, we hope that the process will be enhanced, even though after this event the anxiety of the families will be higher. All of us are anxious about who will be repatriated, and when the others will be repatriated”

Gordon Bacon, Chief of Staff of ICMP, said:

” Our thoughts are always with the families. We appreciate their need for closure, for truth and justice, and we will work to achieve that on their behalf. This first set of repatriations shows what can be done when all the organizations involved work together.”