The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) concluded yesterday in Banja Luka a series of 18 public presentations held throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. During these events, ICMP staff in cooperation with staff of the BiH Missing Persons Institute provided an overview of the process of exhumations and identifications in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the role of all institutions and individuals involved in this complex process.
ICMP’s experts visited the following towns: Nevesinje, Trebinje, Bijeljina, Brčko, Mostar, Čapljina, Višegrad, Goražde, Bugojno, Travnik, Bratunac, Kalesija, Odžak, Doboj, Sarajevo, Sanski Most, Bihać and Banja Luka where they met with families of missing persons, representatives of local communities and other interested citizens.
The local communities were also briefed about the newly launched ICMP’s Missing Persons Online Inquiry Center. This Center is an interactive online missing persons search tool that allows families of the missing and others to track missing persons cases through three different search engines, including the “Missing Persons Inquiry,” the “Postmortem Sample Inquiry,” and the “Excavation Site Inquiry.” By launching this online database ICMP hopes to improve transparency and accountability in the search for missing persons in BiH.
“Through constant contact with the families of missing persons, ICMP is aware that the families are in need of more information regarding their missing relatives and that they demand to be included in this process until their loved ones are finally identified and buried with dignity. That is why we decided to travel to 18 towns in BiH to talk to families and explain to them in person the search process in BiH, who does what in this process, and how the families can become more involved. We also demonstrated to the public and especially the families of missing persons how to use ICMP’s Online Inquiry Center, which is a powerful database at their disposal”, said ICMP’s Western Balkans Regional Coordinator Klaudia Kuljuh.
Milka Kovačić, a Bratunac woman who searches for her husband and heads a local family association, said the presentation she attended was extremely informational and she was satisfied that a database of missing persons is now available online to all families, which will prevent possible manipulations with information. Munevera Advić from the Kotor Varos missing persons family association said the Missing Persons Online Inquiry Center has simplified the flow of up-to-date information to the families. Vanda Havranek who heads an association searching for Bugojno Croats said ICMP’s online database provided the families of missing persons – who are a socially marginalized group – with information they needed and in a simple manner.
The series of presentations in 18 towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina is financed through a generous donation from the British Government.
ICMP’s primary role is to ensure the cooperation of governments in locating and identifying those who have disappeared during armed conflict or as a result of human rights violations. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.
In addition, ICMP works with surviving family members to assist them in accessing legal, social and economic rights. Guidebooks are published in order for families of the missing to better understand their rights. ICMP has supported projects in these and other spheres of civil life, including annual commemorations, development of memorials, media outreach, photo exhibitions, documentary films, and various forms of public debate.