Archive for ????, 2006

US Congresswoman Visits ICMP

???????, ???? 20th, 2006

During a brief trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California visited an International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) mortuary and examination facility in Tuzla, eastern Bosnia on Sunday, 19 March. The ICMP facility houses thousands of body bags containing the remains of victims of the 1995 fall of Srebrenica.Dr. Rifat Kesetovic, Chief Forensic Pathologist at the facility, which is called the Podrinje Identification Project, explained to Congresswoman Sanchez that many of the body bags in the morgue contain only parts of individuals, or parts of several different individuals. The problem of separation and mixing of body parts occurred because several months after the Srebrenica victims were buried in mass graves, the perpetrators dug up the remains and reburied them in smaller mass graves in an attempt to hide the evidence. Heavy machinery was used and the bodies broke apart and became commingled during the process. This makes the identification process more difficult and time-consuming.

Congresswoman Sanchez, who represents the 47th Congressional District of California, encompassing the cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana near Los Angeles, said she was impressed with the success of ICMP in identifying victims despite the difficult circumstances. In the late 1990’s, ICMP scientists pioneered the use of DNA as the first step in the identification of large numbers of missing persons. ICMP’s use of systematic DNA profiling of victim remains and family members, which are then compared to find matches, has revolutionized the identification process. In the case of Srebrenica, for example, only approximately 100 victims had been identified by the end of 2001, when ICMP made its first “blind” DNA match. Since then, ICMP has found DNA matches for approximately 3,500 of the approximately 8,000 Srebrenica victims.

Establishing the identity of the victims helps to provide a sense of closure for the victims’ families and is an important step towards establishing the truth in a post-conflict environment, where numbers of victims are often manipulated for political gain. Congresswoman Sanchez, serving her fifth term in the House of Representatives, the ranking woman of the House Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the visit was a chilling reminder of the consequences of war.

“It is one thing for us to learn about the terrible conflict in the former Yugoslavia, but to come face to face directly with the consequences of that conflict is a truly moving experience,” she said during her visit to ICMP, “Finding justice for these victims, which includes identifying them and returning them to their families for a dignified burial, is an important step towards making sure this kind of tragedy is not repeated.”

Congresswoman Sanchez is also a human rights activist and member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus; she added, “Living with the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to someone you love is a terrible burden; the right of family members to know the fate of their missing relatives is an important human right that must never be overlooked.”

ICMP Names New Director of Forensic Sciences

???????, ???? 13th, 2006

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has hired Thomas J. Parsons, formerly Chief Scientist at the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, as Director of its Forensic Sciences Department. Dr. Parsons took up his post at ICMP’s Sarajevo headquarters on March 1, 2006. He replaces Dr. Mark Skinner, who has returned to his post as professor at the Archaeology Department of Simon Fraser University in Canada. (more…)

Missing Persons Institute Directors Officially Appointed

????????, ???? 1st, 2006

The first Directors of the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) of Bosnia-Herzegovina officially took up their posts today, marking a major step forward in the search for persons missing from the country’s 1992-95 conflict.The MPI is a State-level organization co-founded by the BiH Council of Ministers and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which is taking over the responsibilities of the entity-level missing persons organizations - the Office of the Republika Srpska on Tracing Detained and Missing Persons and the Federation Commission on Tracing Missing Persons. There are three Directors of the MPI: Marko Jurisic and Amor Masovic, Chairmen of the Federation commission, and Milan Bogdanic, Director of the RS office on missing persons. Marko Jurisic took over today as the first MPI Chairman, a position that will rotate every eight months between the current three MPI Directors.

The official Decision appointing the three Directors was signed on Tuesday by the Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers, Adnan Terzic, and the ICMP Chief of Staff, Kathryne Bomberger, who both underlined the importance of the MPI in resolving the country’s outstanding issue of missing persons.

The MPI was inaugurated as a State-level body in August last year and work is continuing to merge the two entity bodies into the single, State-level structure. Much of the work concerns merging the recovery and identification process of the missing; staff of the entity bodies are being transferred to the MPI and an MPI State budget has been approved. Work is also underway on establishing MPI management boards, as well as an Advisory Board, which will include representatives of family members of the missing.

One of the major ongoing tasks of the MPI is to establish a single, central list of those who went missing during the conflict. This list will include all records kept by the entity-level bodies, by associations of families of the missing and by ICMP and other relevant international organizations. The central list will be subjected to a rigorous verification process that will ensure it is accurate. It will help to eliminate political manipulation of numbers of missing persons and will guarantee that all families of missing persons have an equal right to know the fate of their relatives regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

As a single, State-level structure, the MPI will also be able to work more efficiently than the divided entity-level bodies and will therefore help to speed up the process of resolving the fate of the missing, especially in coordination of information, said the first Chairman, Marko Jurisic, as he took over his role this morning. “The lack of quality information on individual and mass gravesites is a key problem, for example, and this problem will be reduced with all relevant government authorities helping us through the Missing Persons Institute. We expect that all State institutions, from the state intelligence agency, the police and state border services and prosecutors will be engaged in efforts to obtain information on the location of gravesites, which will speed up and help us to conclude this important work.”

“The MPI is the long-term solution to the missing persons issue in this country, for everyone, and the new Directors will work together to ensure that families, and the society at large, can finally have a sense of closure,” said ICMP’s Kathryne Bomberger this morning in Sarajevo. “I congratulate the BiH authorities on the progress they have made so far in addressing this issue and I call on them to continue to support this important process.”