Priština 31 January 2020: At a meeting of the Missing Persons Group (MPG) this week, representatives for institutions responsible for missing persons issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia made key decisions on joint activities in 2020 that will contribute to accounting for persons who are still missing as a result of the 1990s conflicts in former Yugoslavia.
The decisions MPG made at the 30 January meeting in Priština, convened by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), include:
- A series of bilateral meetings will be held to prioritise joint reconnaissance and excavation of potential locations of mass graves in 2020.
- MPG members will liaise with ICMP regarding forensic examination and biological sampling of NN (unidentified) cases of human remains in order to facilitate DNA analysis for the purpose of identification of missing persons.
- MPG will jointly mark the 2020 International Day of the Disappeared and issue…
Mexico: activist’s body found
CNN reports that the body of missing Mexican conservationist and activist Homero Gomez Gonzalez has been found in a well in Ocampo, Michoacán. Gomez had been missing since 13 January. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador described Gomez’s death as “lamentable and painful”. The country’s Human Rights Commission said Gomez may have come into conflict with illegal loggers while carrying out his conservation work.
Mexico: accounting for the missing is “a moral issue”
The National Catholic Reporter explores the “moral issue” of accounting for more than 61,000 missing persons in Mexico. Ameglio Patella, a professor at Mexico City’s National Autonomous University, stresses that, “It is critical that we not leave the families and their organizations on their own”.
Ethiopians protest abduction of students
Ethiopians have taken to the streets and social networks to protest the failure of their government to find at least a dozen university students…
Spain: Civil War victims exhumed and identified
The human remains of four men killed in Majorca at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War have been exhumed and identified, according to the Majorca Daily Bulletin. The bodies were found in mass graves in two different areas on the island two years ago, and DNA analysis confirmed their identities.
US: accounting for missing servicemen and women
KTNV carries an article on the work of the US Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). The DPAA searches for servicemen and women missing in conflict and works with families of the missing on DNA identification and other issues. Last year 217 persons were found and identified, 75 percent of whom were former unknown soldiers.
Amnesty: critical report on Sri Lanka
Amnesty International has criticized the authorities in Sri Lanka over “unrealized government commitments to pursue truth, justice and reparations,” and “continued impunity for violations and…
Burundi: 4,000 memories
Reuters reports from Burundi on the excavation of one of the thousands of mass graves that have been identified. The article questions whether Burundi’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is mandated to investigate abuses from colonial times up until 2008, will hold anyone accountable for the killings conducted in the country’s past.
2019: deadliest year for migrants in the Americas
UN News reports that the International Organization for Migration recorded the highest ever number of migration-related fatalities crossing the US-Mexican border in 2019. Nearly 2,500 deaths have been recorded in the last six years, with 497 in 2019. A further 171 deaths were reported in the Arizona desert in 2019, a significant rise over the figure for the previous year.
Mexico: collaboration on identifying missing persons
The authorities in Mexico are exploring further international collaboration on efforts to account for missing persons, Radio Zocalo reports. Karla Quintana of…
Auschwitz: memorializing victims buried in mass graves
On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, TIME Magazine carries an essay examining the memorialization of victims. “For families whose members have survived genocide or other forms of mass murder, remembrance is private and visceral. They often have no body to bury or cremate,” the author writes, before describing a family tragedy and “a small act of ingenious commemoration”.
Missing Indigenous women and girls in the US
The Detroit Lake Tribune news portal carries a comprehensive review of efforts by state governments in the US to address the issue of missing Indigenous women and girls. A wave of Indigenous elected officials entering state and federal office has shone a spotlight on the issue, though indigenous representation in legislatures remains disproportionately small, the article says.
Cambodia: the search for truth, 40 years on
ABC News reports from Cambodia on a survivor’s search…
Identifying deceased migrants in Texas
The Dallas Morning News reports on efforts to identify migrants from Central and South America who have died trying to enter the United States. The International Organization for Migration says 405 migrants died on the US side of the border in 2019, with 91 migration-related deaths reported on the Mexican side. Since 2014, at least 1,750 migrants have died in the border region, half in Texas, “surpassing Arizona, whose blistering terrain was once the leading death trap”.
Thailand: “impunity for enforced disappearance”
AFP reports that a Thai park official implicated in the alleged killing of an environmental activist will not face prosecution for murder due to “insufficient evidence” – a move condemned by rights groups decrying impunity for enforced disappearances. Ethnic Karen leader Por Cha Lee Rakcharoen vanished in April 2014 while he was working on a lawsuit accusing officials of destroying homes of ethnic…
Sri Lanka: government promises “proper investigations” into disappearances
Sri Lanka’s new government, which caused considerable controversy when it announced that it would classify as deceased thousands of people missing from the conflict that ended in 2009, says death certificates will be issued only after proper investigations have been carried out, France 24 reports. Under current law, families cannot access property deeds, bank accounts or inheritances left by missing relatives unless they can conclusively prove they are dead – an often impossible task.
Nepal: transitional justice process resumes
The Himalayan Times reports that newly appointed members of Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons have been sworn in. Nepal’s transitional justice system, established as part of the peace agreement that ended a decade-long conflict in 2006, has been stalled due to arguments over the mandate and effectiveness of the two commissions. Justice Minister Bhanu…
Myanmar ordered to prevent further attacks on Rohingya
The Guardian reports on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, ordering the government of Myanmar to prevent genocidal violence against the country’s Rohingya minority and preserve evidence of past attacks. The ICJ ordered Myanmar to take emergency, “provisional” measures in line with requirements of the 1948 genocide convention. The Myanmar military is accused of carrying out a campaign of enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions against civilians in the country’s western Rakhine State.
Kosovo: massacre survivors await justice
Balkan Insight reports from Kosovo, where witnesses of massacres perpetrated during the 1998-99 conflict have died without ever being called to testify in court. David Tolbert, director of the International Center for Transitional Justice, said “it is worth overturning all the stones” since, in the absence of eyewitnesses, orders recorded in writing or captured by intercepts “could be strong evidence to support a prosecution”….
Egypt: minister ordered to reveal whereabouts of missing ex-MP
An Egyptian court has ordered the country’s interior minister to reveal the whereabouts of a missing former parliamentarian believed to be in state custody, AFP reports. Mostafa al-Naggar, a key figure in the 2011 revolution, was reported missing in September 2018.
Extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh
Human Rights Watch reports that in Bangladesh, government critics “fear they may be next in line to be killed or forcibly disappeared by security forces”. It says there were more than 300 extrajudicial executions in 2019 “and not one member of the security forces was held accountable”.
Venezuela: “members of parliament disappearing”
Reuters reports on the detention of Venezuelan opposition legislator Gilber Caro since 20 December, when the Special Action Force (FAES) took him into custody. His lawyer argues that this was illegal, as Caro is protected by parliamentary immunity. On Tuesday, the Popular Will party said…
Sri Lanka to classify conflict missing persons as deceased
Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says tens of thousands of people missing from the country’s civil war, which ended in 2009, will be formally declared dead, and death certificates will be issued, the Associated Press reports. An Office on Missing Persons, established in 2015, has been investigating 23,586 cases, including those of 5,000 members of the security forces. It is unclear how the government reached the conclusion that all missing persons are dead.
Missing Indigenous women in the US
The New York Times carries a report on the issue of missing Indigenous women in the United States. Last year, 5,590 Indigenous women were reported missing to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, but advocates say the staggeringly high rates of violence suffered by Indigenous people are still not fully reflected in official accounting.
Panama begins exhuming a mass grave from 1989