Archive for ?????, 2005



Srebrenica Mothers Exchange Experience with Kosovo Families of Missing

????????, ????? 27th, 2005

At the invitation of associations of families of missing persons in Kosovo, a group of three Srebrenica family association representatives are visiting Kosovo from Bosnia-Herzegovina to participate in the commemoration of missing from the village of Meja on April 27 and to exchange experience with associations of families of missing persons in Kosovo.The annual event gathers thousands of local residents in memory of the 374 victims who were taken from Meja, near Gjakova in Kosovo on that April 27, 1999. To date, the bodies of 182 of them have been identified and 166 have been buried. On April 27, 2005 an additional 16 identified persons will be buried. The remains of victims from Meja were exhumed from mass graves in Batajnica, Serbia and were identified with the assistance of DNA matching by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

The Srebrenica family representatives will make public remarks as part of the program in order to show their solidarity and sympathy for the suffering of the Kosovo families.

The exchange of experience between associations in Kosovo and Srebrenica will include discussions about planning of annual commemorations, the development of memorials and cemeteries, contacts with families and the experiences dealing with the identification process, especially of remains buried in mass graves, publishing newsletters about the missing persons issue, family association coordination, and cooperation with government authorities.

Another objective of the visit is raising public awareness about the missing persons issue in the region and the need for further efforts to clarify their fate. The Srebrenica representatives will participate in media outreach, which will include guest appearances on local Kosovo radio and television.

The families from Kosovo and Srebrenica met each other initially at regional conferences organized by ICMP. As well as its scientific programs to identify the missing and promote appropriate government policies on the missing, ICMP works with family associations of the missing, encouraging them to work together, supporting association advocacy activities through grants and training programs, and organizing conferences and meetings aimed at solving common problems and opening paths to reconciliation in post-conflict societies. ICMP provided financial and logistical support for the Meja commemoration and visit of the Srebrenica family members to Kosovo.

“Hard Statistics” Cannot Be Abused for Political Gain

????????, ????? 26th, 2005

In a region where political manipulation of numbers of killed and missing from previous wars fanned the flames of further conflicts, ICMP Chairman James Kimsey told reporters on Tuesday that accurate accounting of the missing is essential.Speaking after a tour of ICMP’s Identification Coordination Division (ICD) in Tuzla, eastern Bosnia, which houses the ICMP databases storing DNA information obtained from bones exhumed from grave sites and from blood samples of family members searching for missing relatives, Mr. Kimsey said the work of ICMP represented the first attempt in the world to accurately account for persons missing as a result of conflict. Since it made its first DNA match in November 2001, ICMP has found DNA matches with family members for more than 7,300 missing individuals at the ICD and every day brings more matches.

“DNA technology can now provide empirical evidence of a person’s identity and it can provide hard statistics regarding the real number of people missing,” said Mr. Kimsey, “This fact is important, because governments have in the past abused numbers and distorted reality for political gain.”

Disagreement about the numbers of dead and missing continues to exacerbate tensions, but according to the ICMP database, approximately 20,000 persons remain missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990’s. ICMP has collected blood samples from more than 69,000 family members of the missing. For each missing person, in order to find an accurate DNA match, DNA profiles of several family members are necessary and it is from its blood sample database that ICMP calculates the number of missing individuals.

The families of the missing are unable to mourn properly as they still do not know the fate of their loved ones, but the stability of the peace after a conflict also suffers as long as the fate of the missing remains unresolved.

“A lot of people often think that the work of ICMP is focused on the past and that the issue of the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be put behind us,” noted Mr. Kimsey, “Actually, the work of ICMP is focused on the future, for if you deny the past; you risk repeating the same mistakes.”

Council of Ministers, Presidency Give Full Support to Implementation of a State-Level Institute for the Missing

???????, ????? 25th, 2005

In talks with International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Chairman James Kimsey this morning, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Adnan Terzić, and entity Prime Ministers Ahmet Hadžipašić and Pero Bukejlović, as well as the Mayor of the Brčko District, Mirsad Đapo, agreed on the Protocol to establish the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) as a State-level institution.At a press conference following the meeting, Mr. Kimsey, who is on a two-day visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, told reporters that following intensive and successful deliberations with the governments, and with the full support of the families of the missing, the Protocol simply awaited final approval from the Council of Ministers. “I have a guarantee from Mr. Terzic that he will fast-track this procedure”, said Mr. Kimsey.

At a meeting later in the morning with the Chairman of the BiH Joint Presidency, His Excellency Borislav Paravac, Mr. Kimsey thanked Mr. Pavarac for supporting the implementation of the MPI at the level of the State.

Although the MPI was originally founded by ICMP in the year 2000, in June 2003 the Members of the Presidency voted unanimously to invite the Council of Ministers to create a Protocol that would enable to the CoM to become a co-founder of MPI along with ICMP.

When MPI becomes a State-level institution, it will take over the mandate of the two current entity missing persons structures. It will provide a sustainable BiH mechanism to address the issue of the missing, regardless of their ethnic, religious or national origin.

Because of its neutral role, Mr. Kimsey, told reporters, the MPI will be independent enough from the State and Entity Governments that one of its functions will be to advocate for the release of information concerning the fate of missing persons, thus taking on many of the functions of a truth commission.

The State-level MPI will include an advisory board of family representatives of missing persons and a steering board of eminent individuals from the BiH government and civil society, allowing for the active involvement of civil society, especially victims groups; it will be the central repository for all data and records relevant to missing persons; its mandate includes engagement in commemoration, truth-seeking and raising awareness of the missing persons issue; and it will have operational capacities to investigate the truth concerning the fate of the missing.

“Therefore,” said Mr. Kimsey, “As Bosnian society debates the need for a truth commission, it should consider that it may already be on the way to having one.”