Process of Asserting the Rule of Law Continues

ICMP Commissioner Knut Vollebaek during his visit to BiH
ICMP Commissioner Knut Vollebaek during his visit to BiH

Oslobodjenje daily newspaper published an article today by ICMP Commissioner Knut Vollebaek on the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. “This crime, in its scale and systematic execution, challenged the rule of law not just in a small Bosnian town but far beyond,” Vollebaek wrote. “It is imperative that this anniversary does not pass simply with hand-wringing and expressions of sorrow.” He noted that the perpetrators had “acted as though the law had been neutered” but that while “the process of asserting – or re-asserting – the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been slow and incomplete, it has continued steadily for almost two decades. It is in the interest of civilized societies everywhere to understand what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995 and why it happened. The law that was cast aside then is the same law from which we seek protection today.” The…

Why we are excavating the dead of Srebrenica

Family members gathered at Srebrenica memorial cemetery
Family members gathered at Srebrenica memorial cemetery

The Guardian published an article today by International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Director-General Kathryne Bomberger on the work done by ICMP over the last two decades to help families of the missing, local Bosnian authorities and domestic and international courts locate and identify the victims of Srebrenica. “This has made it possible for families to bury their dead with dignity,” she wrote, “and it has made it possible to piece together what happened and to prosecute some of those who were responsible for the murders.” Noting that on Saturday, at a ceremony that will be attended by world leaders as well as tens of thousands of mourners, more than 100 newly identified bodies will be laid to rest in the cemetery at Potocari, near Srebrenica, Bomberger wrote that “those who killed in Srebrenica in July 1995 believed they could get away with murder. They thought they could erase…

Truth and Justice Will Prevail

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An article by ICMP Commissioner Wim Kok on the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide was published by the BiH news portal klix.ba today. Noting that “the right response to evil is to set a clear course out of the darkness,” Commissioner Kok reviews the steps that have been taken to bring those responsible for the genocide to justice. He concludes that “Each of the simple white headstones that stand in serried rows in the country cemetery outside Srebrenica has a name. Each of the victims has been identified. And with each identification a portion of the killers’ evil intent has been confounded – because one of the objects of the genocide was to erase any trace that these people had ever existed. The intent was to destroy existence and memory. Each identification refutes this.” The full text of Commissioner Kok’s article can be read here http://bit.ly/1Cr3iCZ

A Deadly Warning: Srebrenica Revisited

21. ICMP forensic anthropologist analyzes commingled bones

A BBC documentary presented by Myriam Francois-Cerrah examines the experience of a small group of British young people, born in 1995, the year of the Srebrenica Genocide, as they visited Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier this year and learned about the only recognized genocide on European soil since World War Two. The film includes a visit by the young people to the Podrinje Identification Center in Tuzla, where they were briefed by ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger and ICMP Senior Forensic Anthropologist Dragana Vucetic. The visit was organized by the UK charity Remembering Srebrenica. The documentary can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1JTFjfi.

More than 100 newly-identified bodies will be laid to rest

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The International Business Times published an article on Srebrenica today written by ICMP Chairman Thomas Miller and ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger, stressing that that “recognizing and communicating the nature and scale of the crime” is an indispensable basis for ensuring that it is not repeated. “The killers sought to hide the evidence of their crime with the utmost callousness, using mechanical diggers to exhume bodies and scatter them across multiple secondary graves that they believed would be difficult to detect,” Miller and Bomberger wrote. “In the process they commingled the bones of the dead in a way that they may have thought would make them impossible to identify. They sought to destroy the very identities of the people they had murdered. In the Western Balkans, ICMP has led a process that has made it possible to account for more than 70% of the missing, an unprecedented achievement. In the…

Truth and Justice Are Antidotes to Violence and Hatred

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On 7 July the Huffington Post published an opinion piece by ICMP Commissioner Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan describing the remarkable response of families of the missing in the years since the Srebrenica genocide. Queen Noor wrote that she has spent long periods over the last two decades in the company of the Mothers of Srebrenica, who are “among the bravest and most inspiring people it has ever been my privilege to meet.” She stressed that “they have refused to abandon the pursuit of justice, and they have refused to descend to the level of the men who murdered their fathers and husbands and sons: they have refused to hate.” She stressed that ICMP has responded to the horror of Srebrenica with effective strategies that use state of the art technology and foster the rule of law. “Each of the thousands of white headstones at Srebrenica bears a…

Mechanics of Migration

Bangladeshi migrant workers who have crossed the Egyptian border wait patiently for a repatriation flight home, relieved to have escaped the fighting in Libya.
Picture © Stabilisation Unit/DFID
Bangladeshi migrant workers who have crossed the Egyptian border wait patiently for a repatriation flight home, relieved to have escaped the fighting in Libya. Picture © Stabilisation Unit/DFID

Rachele Sbrissa examines enforced disappearance, people trafficking and missing persons issues that are an integral element in the Mediterranean migration crisis

Migration and forced migration have become issues of growing international attention and concern. A majority of people move voluntarily, but in 2013, out of 232 million estimated migrants, Behind the statistics, the plight of migrants and refugees constitutes a serious humanitarian emergency, which has recently been brought into the spotlight by rising immigration flows affecting Europe, notably through the main transit routes of the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Despite huge sums of money being spent on collecting migration and border control data, relatively little is known about the migrants who die during their journey and/or…

Migration and Missing Persons

Children in the Atmah Refugee Camp on the boarders with Turkey, Christmas Day 2012. Credit: Basma
Children in the Atmah Refugee Camp on the boarders with Turkey, Christmas Day 2012. Credit: Basma

On 18 June, two days before World Refugee Day, UNHCR issued its annual Global Trends report, this year entitled “World at War”.

Speaking about the report, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said: “We have reached a moment of truth. World stability is falling apart leaving a wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale. Global powers have become either passive observers or distant players in the conflicts driving so many innocent civilians from their homes.”

According to UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people at the end of 2014 rose to a staggering 59.5 million, compared to 51.2 million at the end of 2013, and 37.5 million a decade ago. Guterres pointed out that more people fled their homes in 2014 than at any time since UNHCR records began.

Worldwide there were 19.5 million refugees (up from 16.7 million in 2013), 38.2 million people displaced inside their own countries (up from…

Brac Conference on Genetics

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Zoran Budimilija reports on the proceedings of the Ninth Conference of the International Society of Applied Biological Sciences (ISABS) in Forensic, Anthropologic and Medical Genetics and Mayo Clinic Lectures in Translational Medicine, held from 22 to 26 June in Bol, on the island of Brač in Croatia (www.isabs.hr).

The conference was the latest in a series of biennial events organized by the International Society for Applied Biological Sciences, which is dedicated to the promotion of applied molecular biology, in the presence of more than 500 participants from all over the world. This year’s program focused on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) in forensics, DNA investigative intelligence, and advances in forensic DNA routine, as well as anthropology genetics concerning ancient and modern human genome history, and the human genetic history of the continents.

The work of ICMP was presented at the Conference by Dr. Thomas Parsons, Director of ICMP’s Forensic Science Division…

Sustaining the Process of Accounting for Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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At the end of June, ICMP arranged media briefings in Banja Luka and Sarajevo to explain the latest developments in implementing recommendations from the Stocktaking Report published by ICMP in December last year. The Report is the most comprehensive analysis yet written of a country’s effort to account for missing persons after armed conflict.

It reviews

  • Wartime efforts to account for the missing, including the work of the various commissions established to exchange prisoners and remains of the deceased;
  • Post-war efforts to identify bodies, using traditional methods;
  • The domestic legal and institutional framework, including the enactment of the BiH Law on Missing Persons in October 2004 and the establishment of the BiH Missing Persons Institute (MPI) in August 2005; and
  • The scientific process, which witnessed an exponential rise in identifications after 2001 with the introduction of ICMP’s DNA-led Identification Data Management System.

The Report provides detailed information on the location and identification of the missing…