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.