Families of Missing Persons Demand Justice

Family members of persons missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia will join voices with thousands of others across the world tomorrow to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.The problem of disappearances is a global concern, with cases in more than 30 countries around the world. August 30th is recognized as the International Day of the Disappeared, following the custom of marking the day that was started in the early 1980’s by a Latin American federation of associations of families of detained and missing persons. It has since been adopted as a day of commemoration for associations of families of missing persons by international human rights groups around the world.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina this year, the day will be marked by the launch of a new State-level organization, the Missing Persons Institute (MPI), which will search for the missing regardless of their nationality or ethnicity, taking over responsibility from two ethnically divided organizations. The MPI was established by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which has worked for years with all stakeholders in the country to build the political will to create a single State-level body and at a signing ceremony on August 30th, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina will officially become co-founders of the Institute.

This year, family association representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina are jointly demanding that the MPI be made operational as soon as possible with an accurate database of all missing persons and that the country’s unique Law on the Missing, passed in 2004 be fully implemented. Asking that the rights of all victims be addressed, they demand also that the process of tracing missing persons be de-politicized and that the exhumation of mass graves and identification process be speeded up. They are also appealing to anyone who may have information about the whereabouts of graves of the fate of missing persons to come forward.

Associations of families of missing persons have been marking the International Day of the Disappeared with activities across the former Yugoslavia since 2002. For the fourth year, the ICMP has supported the efforts of associations to organize a calendar of events in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Kosovo.

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is working to address the problem of missing persons through its work on a political, scientific and civil society level. The work of associations of families of missing persons is supported through grants, training, networking, and addressing the rights of surviving relatives. ICMP is helping to identify missing persons through its DNA testing program which has, to date, found DNA matches for more than 8,000 individuals in the former Yugoslavia.

Through its comprehensive interdisciplinary approach, ICMP hopes to contribute to a more stable peace and further steps towards truth, justice and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.