The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the United Nations Development Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNDP BIH) in partnership with the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees and the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina organized a Regional conference on promoting a holistic approach to Memorials and Remembrance in Sarajevo from 9th to 10th December 2010.
The conference was aimed at initiating a process of dialogue between governments and civil society on models of commemoration and remembrance regarding atrocities that took place during the conflicts in the regions of the Western Balkans during the 1990’s. The conference focused on how to commemorate the thousands of victims of such atrocities, including persons missing from armed conflict, rape victims, victims of torture and other victims of crimes against humanity and violations of human rights. Of particular importance was the concept of exploring how to commemorate and honor victims, regardless of their ethnic, religious or national origin.
“I welcome the holding of this conference as an opportunity for us to exchange opinions and present expectations on the issue of memorials to missing persons. It was useful to hear how this issue was resolved in other parts of the world. Meetings like this boost the atmosphere of understanding and assist in establishing the facts”, Nedeljko Mitrović, president of the RS Organization of detained and fallen soldiers and missing civilians.
Julijana Rosandić, president of the Union of Family Associations of Civil Victims of War of the Republic of Croatia, said following the conference that „each regional conference is a plus for mutual understanding and helps us to reconcile opinions on difficult topics. A few years ago these topics would have been almost impossible to discuss. The joint work of missing persons’ family representatives simply has no alternative“.
“We are disappointed that the authorities in BiH have failed to completely implement the Law on Missing Persons, which would have enabled funding for the creation of memorials. In this context we are dissatisfied that mass graves have not been marked properly as war crime sites. However, we families of victims are encouraged with the discussions during the conference and we hope the process that we work on will be improved and expedited”, Ahmet Grahić, president of the Bosniak Union of Family Associations of Missing and Detained Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said.
“Promoting a universal memorial is a very good idea for the future of our children who should learn a lesson from the past, regardless of the various memorials built so far by all ethicities in BiH. Unity is good for our future. I hope that in some 4 years we will be able to look back and say that we have accomplished something”, Zvonko Kubinek, president of Family Association of Croat Defenders of Soli-Tuzla said.