The International Commission on Missing Persons is making its report on missing persons from the Kosovo conflict available to the general public. The report was initially provided to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, as well as to authorities in Serbia and Kosovo in the fall of 2010.
The report focuses in particular on the technical assistance that ICMP has provided to UNMIK and later to EULEX in the provision of DNA identification work.The report reaches the following conclusions:
• Despite the fact that almost 2,000 persons are still listed as missing, no further mortal remains of missing persons have been found on the territory of Serbia since 2002 and there has been a sharp decline in the annual number of mortal remains recovered from clandestine graves in Kosovo;
• As a consequence, ICMP’s technical assistance has also come to a virtual standstill;
• There is also a large discrepancy in the number of persons reported missing and the number of mortal remains discovered to date. ICMP believes that one reason for this difference in numbers is errors made in identifications between 1999 and 2003, through the use of traditional methods, prior to the agreement between UNMIK and ICMP to engage in a DNA-led process of identifications in late 2003;
• The approaching impasse in the search for missing persons, coupled with the prospect of large numbers of misidentifications, may have troubling political, legal and societal consequences;
• Unless a new strategic approach is taken, ICMP will soon be in a position where it can no longer provide technical assistance through DNA identification work.
The report makes the following recommendations:
• As a first step, EULEX and ICMP will need to formally agree on a new strategic approach, which includes a review of the underlying reasons for the large discrepancy in numbers and an understanding of the extent to which misidentifications occurred. This review will require an extensive appraisal of records and data held by EULEX and ICMP;
• Understanding and possibly overcoming technical problems may remove political obstacles that are masking progress in the search for missing persons; however, the prospect of misidentifications will have legal and societal consequences. Therefore, the results of this joint review should be shared with the Kosovo Government’s Policy Group on Missing Persons, which was formed in 2009 and includes the Kosovo Government’s Commission on Missing Persons, EULEX, ICRC and ICMP. The results should also be shared with the Government of Serbia;
• Following the transmission of the conclusions of the joint review, governments, together with families of the missing from both communities and representatives of international organizations should carefully consider next steps. ICMP recommends reconvening a conference similar to the one it hosted in 2007 for this purpose;
• Furthermore, Kosovo’s institutions, particularly the Government Commission on Missing Persons should be strengthened and records concerning missing persons should soon be handed over to the Commission to create a central archive. Records should also be provided to the Serbian Commission on Missing Persons. ICMP currently provides records of its DNA results to both commissions. The joint efforts of ICMP and EULEX could also contribute to the creation of these central records. These joint efforts should be accompanied by continued work to create and implement the Law on Missing Persons.