Government Commissions on Missing Persons from Croatia and Serbia meet for the first time with Family Associations of missing persons from the Croatia conflicts of the 1990s

Representatives of the Government Commission on Detainees and Missing Persons of the Republic of Croatia, the Government Commission on Missing Persons of the Republic of Serbia, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and representatives of Family Associations of Missing Persons from Croatia and Serbia met this week in Osijek, Republic of Croatia.

This meeting constitutes the  first time that Government Commissions from both Serbia and Croatia have met with Family Associations of relatives of victims of the Croatia conflicts and was an opportunity for both governments to promote transparency and accountability in dealing with the complex regional issue of missing persons. The meeting enabled relatives of the missing from the conflicts  to be briefed and updated on the results, progress and obstacles in the processes of locating, recovering and identifying mortal remains of persons missing from the conflicts on the territory of Croatia. The meeting was organized in accordance with the conclusions of the 11th Regional Networking Conference on the Missing Persons Issue held in Belgrade in November 2008.

“I was satisfied with today’s meeting as it was a chance for family associations to learn  about the situation between Croatia and Serbia as pertains to missing persons, the work methods involved and the results so far, and for us to hear the thoughts of family associations on how the search for missing persons can be accelerated,” said Mr.Ivan Grujic, Head of the Commission on Detainees and Missing Persons of the Republic of Croatia.

“It is only through conversation and evidence that we can reach better results in the process of locating missing persons,” said Ivan Pšenica, President of the Union of Family Associations of Detained and Missing Croatian Defenders.

“It is very useful for us to meet periodically and to offer the families as much information as possible, thus extending our cooperation. I also support the idea of thematic education about the exhumation and identification process for families and the wider public,” said Mr Veljko Odalovic, the Chairman of the Government of Serbia Commission on Missing Persons.

“It is important that Family Associations representing missing Serbs and missing Croats have initiated this meeting and have presented the problem they are facing together,” said Ružica Spasić, president of the Vukovar Family Association of Missing and Forcibly Disappeared Persons.

“It is important that governments provide reliable and accurate information to victims’ groups and the public regarding those missing from armed conflict.  The meeting in Osijek is therefore an important step forward in transparency and accountability,” said ICMP’s Director-General, Ms.Kathryne Bomberger.

The Croatia conflict resulted in an estimated 6,500 individuals going missing or being presumed dead over two distinct periods, between 1991-1992 and in 1995. Most of these have been recovered on the territory of Croatia, with a smaller number of skeletal remains recovered in Serbia and BiH. ICMP has provided assistance to Croatia and Serbia since 1996 in the form of constructing DNA laboratories, donating technical equipment and assisting in the recovery and identification of mortal remains. Currently, ICMP and Croatia have a Joint Project on DNA-led Identifications regarding missing persons from the two conflicts.

To date ICMP has collected blood samples from 3,646 persons, representing 1,327 different missing individuals from the Croatia conflicts. Through the joint project with Croatia,  208 DNA reports have been generated, accounting for 204 different individuals.