The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), the Citizen Association “Pravo Ljudski” and the Sarajevo War Theater SARTR are organizing a series of events to mark August 30th, the International Day of the Disappeared, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The events are intended to raise public awareness in Bosnia and Herzegovina about the issue of missing persons from armed conflict and human rights abuses, not only from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, but from other contexts around the world.
On this occasion, a Mexican film, “Tracing Aleida” will be screened in Prijedor (29 August, Kino Kozara – summer stage at 20:30), Banja Luka (30 August, Medical faculty at 18:00) and Sarajevo (30 August, SARTR at 18:00). Following the film screening in Sarajevo a panel discussion will be organized, during which the speakers will discuss the role of national authorities, international institutions and civil society in accounting for missing persons, as well as the impact of addressing these cases on the post-conflict societies, or countries suffering from missing persons cases as a result of human rights abuses.
In addition, workshops will be organized with youth groups in Prijedor and Banja Luka, which will focus on missing persons as a transitional justice and human rights issue. In commemoration of all those who disappeared during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prijedor Association “Izvor” will organize a street exhibition on 29 August of personal artifacts which belonged to missing persons. This activity is funded by a grant from ICMP.
“While over 70 percent of those missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have been accounted for, about 9,000 persons are still missing from the conflicts relevant to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This remains a huge societal and legal problem for the country. Their families are still living in a state of trauma, a state of mental torture. On the International Day of the Disappeared we need to remind the authorities that they need to do more in order to bring answers to the families. And on this occasion we wish to remember all those people whose whereabouts are still unknown”, said Matthew Holiday, ICMP’s Western Balkans Justice and Civil Society Coordinator.
“Although considerable efforts have been invested in identification of a large number of missing persons, national authorities must invest a lot more in further identification of the remaining missing persons and increase concern for their living relatives. The problem of missing persons is a social problem, and it must be institutionally and systematically addressed. Pravo Ljudski has been involved in the work with youth groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina for years, using audiovisual art as an instrument for acquiring knowledge and information about human rights and democracy. Our efforts to motivate young people to develop social intelligence and articulate topics which they find difficult or reluctant to speak out in schools contributes to the education of new generations who will advocate for a more open and tolerant democratic society “,stated Monja Suta Hibert, executive director of the Citizen’s Association Pravo Ljudski.
“As in previous activities, the Sarajevo War Theater aims to research painful experience through art. We consider it important to take part in a program which deals with such an important issue in our society – missing persons. As with this and other similar topics, we believe that various institutions should be included, especially theaters and other areas of art. Awareness about the size of the missing persons issue and the International day of the disappeared are topics which fall into the category of our human, artistic and moral obligations,” stated Nihad Kreševljaković, director of the SARTR.
ICMP has also provided financial support to Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb family members to mark the international day of the disappeared by holding simultaneous press conferences in Pristina and Belgrade on 30 August. ICMP is proud to note that two Kosovo Albanian family members of missing persons will participate in the press conference in Belgrade, while two Kosovo Serb family members of missing persons will participate in the press conference in Pristina.
The initiative to commemorate the 30th August as the International Day of the Disappeared was taken by the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, which was founded in 1981 in Costa Rica and has since been recognized globally.