Official Opening of Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery

With the official opening of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery on Saturday September 20th, 2003, almost 1000 individuals who died during the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 are now laid to rest. The numbers will increase as more missing persons are found and identified. That these persons now have the final dignity of a marked grave instead of an anonymous memorial is due to the hard work of many people and organizations. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), through its work with families, and governments, as well as by using traditional and new science, contributes to this work which recognizes the human rights of both the living and the dead.

President Bill Clinton, who is the prime guest of honour at the official opening, was the choice of both the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica and of all the citizens of Srebrenica. It was President Clinton, who first put the idea to the international community of an International Commission on Missing Persons at the G7 Summit in Lyon, France in 1996. The Commission was set up in June 1996 and since then has worked with families all over the region to find and identify their missing loved ones. ICMP supports and sponsors Family Associations in their efforts to find the truth, and lobbies governments to release information and to give the missing persons issue the highest priority.

In addition this humanitarian work uses a pioneering DNA matching program which has proved to be the key to accurate identification. Without this program, victims might be found but would in many cases remain unidentified, and cemeteries like Potocari would have only a series of anonymous graves. The first BiH in-country identification, in November 2001, was a 15 year old victim from Srebrenica. Since then, more than 1000 other individuals who died during the fall of Srebrenica have been positively identified. More identifications will follow, as ICMP has already submitted DNA reports on over 1,800 individuals from Srebrenica to the local courts. More than 15,000 blood samples from close family members of the missing from Srebrenica have been received in the ICMP blood data base in Tuzla, representing 7,700 missing persons.

ICMP has played an active role in the establishment of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery and ICMP’s Chief of Staff, Gordon Bacon, who is a member of the Executive Board of the Foundation, said:
“Many ICMP staff have had a major part in the recovery and identification process, and in supporting the Family Associations. I am delighted that in recognition of his work, Dr Rifat Kesetovic, Chief Forensic Pathologist at the ICMP Podrinje Identification Project in Tuzla, will be one of the people who will be presented to President Clinton during his visit”.

ICMP wants to encourage all family members who still have missing loved ones and who have not yet given a blood reference to come forward and do so, through the blood collection centers or the mobile teams.

ICMP is sponsored by thirteen governments and one private foundation, who demonstrate in this way their commitment to improving human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in solving the missing persons issue throughout the region.