Families Agree on Future Steps to Improve Resolving Missing Persons Cases from Kosovo Conflict

Article posted on November 21, 2012

ICMP hosted a two day conference entitled, “The Future of the Missing Persons Process from the Kosovo Conflict” in Skopje, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The conference gathered together representatives of family associations of missing persons, government representatives from Belgrade and Pristina, as well as representatives from the international community, including EULEX and ICRC.

“The goal of the meeting was to give the families of the missing an opportunity to speak with one voice, across ethnic, national and religious lines, regarding how they feel the issue of the missing should be dealt with,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Director General. During the meeting, the participants took stock of the process of searching for persons missing from Kosovo conflict and discussed efforts to enhance the process of accounting for the over 1,700 persons still missing,” she added.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to an assessment of progress made in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons; the creation and implementation of legislation on missing persons; war crimes prosecutions and; the creation of a regional list of persons missing from the recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, which would include the consolidated list of persons missing from the Kosovo conflict.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to round table discussions during which strategies and recommendations for the future were explored, which included a discussion on enhancing databases and efforts to engage in joint memorials and commemorations.

It was noted during the conference that the majority of the 40,000 persons missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have now been accounted for, including those missing from the Kosovo conflict and that it will now be more difficult to find the remaining missing persons. While Serbia has engaged in numerous efforts to find missing persons from the Kosovo conflict on its territory, no further mortal remains have been found there since 2002, following the excavations in Batajnica, Petrovo Selo and Banja Basta. EULEX has also mounted extensive field operations since 2009; however, the number of persons found continues to decrease.

In addition, EULEX provided information concerning an inventory of the Pristina mortuary where 400 bodies are currently stored, indicating that some of the bodies in the mortuary may not be related to the conflict. ICMP provided a status of cases analyzed where the postmortem samples submitted for the approximately 400 cases in the mortuary do not match blood reference samples provided by over 6,000 persons searching for their relatives (ICMP Stocktaking Report).

The participants discussed a set of conclusions and recommendations that aimed at enhancing the process, including the use of satellite imagery and other modern techniques to locate new sites. Those recommendations will be made public within the coming weeks.