The issue of over 17,000 persons still missing from the conflicts of the 1990′s in the regions of Southeastern Europe is the topic of a three day conference being held by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Novi Vinodolski, Republic of Croatia from 25 to 27 October.This conference is the 10th regional conference of its kind held by ICMP in cooperation with associations of families of missing persons from the region where representatives of governments from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Serbia and the UN Administered Kosovo are invited to share information relevant to determining the fate of missing persons. The Croatian Minister for Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity and Vice President of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Jadranka Kosor and the BiH Minister of Human Rights and Refugees, Dr. Safet Halilovic opened the conference along with Ms. Kathryne Bomberger, Director General of the ICMP.
In her opening statement Ms. Kosor stated that, “each family member has the right to learn the truth about the fate of their missing relatives.” Ms. Kosor added that, “the Croatian authorities have exhumed 4,322 persons from 143 mass graves and over 1,400 individual graves. Of that number 3,383 persons have been identified since the beginning of the process and that an additional 2,021 persons are still unaccounted for.” Ms. Kosor thanked the ICMP for its joint work and projects with Croatia.
In his remarks, Dr. Halilovic, stressed that the BiH Law on Missing Persons has provided the basis for a sustainable process for locating and identifying missing persons in BiH regardless of their religious or national background. “The Law on Missing Persons has served as an instrument to establish the BiH Missing Persons Institute (MPI); however, the Law must still be implemented and as part of that effort BiH has to create the Fund for Suppport to Family Associations and the joint database on missing persons.”
“These conferences provide a very important forum to allow civil society groups to meet with authorities and to share information in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Ms. Bomberger. “Family members of the missing are frustrated and often afraid to ask questions. This forum is an important opportunity for them to express themselves and to advocate for the release of information,” she added.
The issue of missing persons remains one of the biggest human rights issues facing the region today. Following the cessation of conflicts there were about 40,000 persons missing and today that number is down to approximately 17,000 persons. To date ICMP has collected 85,192 blood samples, which accounts for 28,345 different missing persons. In addition, ICMP has assisted in making 12,703 identifications using DNA. ICMP has organized ten regional conferences since 1998 in an effort to bring together family associations, representatives of government institutions, relevant local and international organizations and experts to discuss common issues and develop joint recommendations to resolve the issue of missing persons from the armed conflicts of the 1990′s