Mr. Dirk Lange, Head of Unit for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina within the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement visited the facilities of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Tuzla today.
His visit included a tour of ICMP’s Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) where forensic anthropologists and pathologists examine, store and make final identifications of the mortal remains of persons missing from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica.
Mr. Lange also visited ICMP’s Identification Coordination Center where blood reference samples are collected from relatives of the missing in each country that ICMP operates and all bone samples are received from government authorities in each of those countries. After registration and bar coding the samples are sent to ICMP’s laboratories in Sarajevo and Banja Luka for DNA analysis. Once extracted, the DNA profiles from both blood and bone are entered into a database and ICMP uses specially developed software to seek matches between blood and bone samples.
“The European Union is committed to supporting the process of rebuilding and reconciliation in all countries of the Western Balkans and the work of the ICMP plays an important part in realizing this goal”, Mr. Dirk Lange said following the visit to ICMP’s facilities.
“We are grateful to the European Union for the financial and political support it has provided to ICMP. Without this support, as well as the contributions of other ICMP donors, our work in assisting the governments of this region in locating, recovering and identifying thousands of victims missing from the armed conflicts of the last decade would be impossible”, Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Director General, said following the visit.
Mr. Lange’s visit comes in advance of the conclusion of a 1 million euro grant by the EU to ICMP. This is the EU’s second grant to ICMP, the first being of 900,000 EUR which was directed towards ICMP’s blood collection and public outreach campaign in EU countries in 2004.
The work of ICMP is also supported by the Governments of Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Switzerland, Greece, Germany, the Holy See, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The C.S. Mott Foundation also provides funding to ICMP for a “Paths to Reconciliation” project.
ICMP assists governments in the process of locating, recovering and identifying missing persons through the use of forensic archaeology, anthropology and DNA science. ICMP made its first DNA match on November 16th, 2001 and since then over 14,000 different individuals from the former Yugoslavia have been identified, of whom some 12,000 are from Bosnia and Herzegovina, including more than 5,600 of the estimated 8,100 persons who went missing from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica. ICMP also provides policy assistance to governments in the establishment of appropriate laws and mechanisms to address the missing persons issue and it strengthens the ability of civil society groups and family members of victims to engage in this important humanitarian and human rights issue.