The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is launching a major media campaign this week to encourage family members of persons missing as a result of the conflict in Kosovo to donate blood samples for DNA-led identifications.ICMP Chief of Staff Kathryne Bomberger unveiled ICMP’s television, radio and newspaper advertisements to the media at a press conference on Sunday in Pristina. All the advertisements, as well as posters, have been produced in both Albanian and Serbian languages; they will be carried by media in Kosovo and Serbia proper from this week.
ICMP is focusing on family members of the missing in its campaign; in the television advertisements, mothers of sons who went missing during the conflict say that by giving a blood sample, they have done everything they can to find their missing sons. The central theme of the campaign is the question “Have you done everything you can?” ICMP hopes, in this way, to encourage more family members to come forward. The blood samples are simple to give – just four small drops of blood from a fingertip onto an absorbent card.
“The issue of missing persons from the 1998-1999 conflict represents one of the biggest human rights concerns facing Kosovo today,” said Kathryne Bomberger at the media presentation on Sunday, adding, “We are doing everything we can to bring resolution to the families and truth to the society as a whole”.
ICMP has so far collected almost 13,000 blood samples from family members of persons missing from the conflict, accounting for approximately 4,000 missing individuals. Some 4,500 persons are estimated to have gone missing as a result of the conflict. Through the current blood collection campaign, ICMP hopes to collect a further 1,000 blood samples, completing the blood collection part of the identification efforts. ICMP also estimates there are still over 1,500 mortal remains still unaccounted for from the conflict.
ICMP has been working on the issue of persons missing as a result of the Kosovo conflict since 1999, assisting the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Provisional Institutions of Self Government in identifying missing persons. In 2001, ICMP began working on the issue in Serbia proper. ICMP’s assistance varies from political support and support of the family associations of the missing to technical support, including assistance with forensic archeology, anthropology and DNA-led identifications.
ICMP collects blood samples from family members of the missing and analyses those samples for DNA-led identifications. The DNA profiles obtained from family members’ blood samples are compared to the DNA of exhumed mortal remains, obtained by ICMP from bone specimens submitted to it by UNMIK. As a result of that process, ICMP provides UNMIK with DNA reports identifying the persons whose bone specimens have been analyzed by ICMP.