Archive for ?????, 2005



Families are Driving Force for Institute

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

Representatives of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and government officials met with family members of the missing in Sarajevo on Thursday to explain how the new State-level Missing Persons Institute will be organized. Along with ICMP, representatives from the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina and entity-level Government commissions on missing persons spoke with 45 representatives of associations of families of missing persons from across the country who attended the meeting.The Missing Persons Institute (MPI) will be officially launched next Tuesday as the State-level authority that will be responsible for addressing the missing persons issue across the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The current Federation Commission for Tracing Missing Persons and the RS Office for Tracing Detained and Missing Persons will be merged into the MPI, which will take over the responsibilities, work, staff and budgets of the current entity bodies. The MPI will establish a central database on all missing persons and will establish standard procedures for exhumations, examinations, and identifications.

“Family association members will be directly represented on the Advisory Board of the MPI, which will for the first time allow them to have a formal role in the process and as such they will be able to make recommendations on programs and monitor the activities of the Institute. In addition, members of the Advisory Board may attend meetings of the Steering and Supervisory Board as observers, thus increasing the transparency of the process,” said ICMP Chief of Staff Kathryne Bomberger at the meeting. “Families will be a watchdog for the Institute, ensuring that the Government meets its obligations to its citizens to provide answers. Associations are the driving force of the Institute.”

Association representatives expressed a desire to ensure transparency of the work of the Institute and appropriate coverage throughout the country through the Institute’s regional offices. The associations of family members of the missing work tirelessly to obtain answers about the fate of their missing relatives and at Thursday’s meeting they once again stressed their desire to be recognized as partners in the process. They also called for full implementation of the Law on Missing Persons.

By creating a sustainable, state-level structure, BiH has taken an important step forward in addressing the issue of the missing. The Institute will work to find and identify missing persons regardless of their religion or ethnic origin and will seek to improve access to information and ending political manipulation of this important human rights issue.

ICMP Finds Improved Methods for Locating Mass Graves

????????, ????? 16th, 2005

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers commissioned by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has detected geographic patterns associated with mass graves that will help find hidden graves in the future. ICMP presented the findings of its study this morning at the site of one of the known but as yet unexcavated mass graves in eastern Bosnia that was used in the study.By studying 16 different known mass graves sites in the area, the team of satellite imagery experts, geology experts and forensic archaeologists who visited Bosnia-Herzegovina in May found common characteristics that will help locate other grave sites.

The researchers, from the United States and the United Kingdom, found that mass graves in the area were characteristically in river valleys; in the corner of meadows or agricultural fields; within 100 meters of a road; on a low slope from the road to the site; and colonized by dense weeds and grasses. Tests of soil resistance to electricity also revealed striking patterns, enabling researchers to pinpoint the exact location of mass graves. This technique is also useful for mapping the depth and composition of a mass grave before exhumation

Satellite imagery and spectral analysis, which measures changes in the composition of the surface of the ground, have recently been used to locate mass graves in Iraq. This multi-disciplinary ICMP project is designed to improve and expand upon such techniques through means such as plant and vegetation analysis, testing of the conductivity of soil and computer mapping analysis. Although spectral analysis is more effective in the desert environment of Iraq, in countries with more vegetation, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, satellite imagery techniques will be more useful if patterns of plant growth associated with mass graves are better understood.

“We looked at a series of technologies that can be used in combination to help to find mass graves,” said Professor John Hunter, the lead researcher on the team, who presented the report this morning, “We are not talking about some kind of magical grave-detector, but about a system of techniques that will find patterns and differences in the ground that we know are associated with mass graves. This kind of work is all about finding those clues.”

All of these methods are non-invasive, meaning that not only are the remains not disturbed during the search, but that witnesses who may want to keep locations of mass graves secret are not alerted to the fact that a grave may have been found. In many cases in Bosnia-Herzegovina, bodies have been moved from one location to another in order to cover-up evidence of mass killings.

“We commissioned this study because we wanted to bring together technologies that have never before been used together to make the process of finding mass graves more efficient,” explained Jon Sterenberg, ICMP Head of Excavations and Examinations. “One of the most difficult aspects of identifying the missing from a conflict or human rights abuse has always been actually finding the mass graves - the combination of methods outlined in this study will help us to find mass graves and will make it more difficult for perpetrators to hide any mass graves in the future,” he added.

German Donation to Support ICMP DNA Laboratories

???????, ????? 15th, 2005

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has received a 150,000 Euro contribution from the Government of Germany towards the work of ICMP DNA laboratories in the former Yugoslavia.The ICMP incorporates the use of DNA as a primary tool in post-conflict identifications; this method requires the collection and profiling of DNA from blood samples donated by family members with missing relatives for matching with DNA extracted from bone samples taken from recovered mortal remains.

“DNA informed identifications are the only way to accurately identify large numbers of persons missing from armed conflicts. This contribution will help the work of ICMP laboratories, supplying them with the chemicals crucial for DNA analysis”, said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff when the donation was received. “Through the use of DNA, ICMP has provided accurate identifications and thus hopes to have contributed to a sense of closure for family members and helped the society as a whole”, she added.

ICMP made its first DNA match in November 2001, and since then the organization has made over 8,000 DNA matches of different individuals missing from the conflicts in the regions of the former Yugoslavia, of which approximately 6,000 are of persons missing from Bosnia Herzegovina.

“We hope that this contribution will help to facilitate ICMP’s important mission to provide answers for family members, giving them accurate, politically neutral identifications based on DNA science,” said H.E. Ambassador Arne Freiherr von Kittlitz und Ottendorf.

The Government of Germany has supported the activities of ICMP since 2001. The work of ICMP is also supported by the Governments of the United States of America, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Greece and the Holy See, and by the European Union.