Honoring the International Day of the Disappeared –30 August 2003

On the occasion of 30 August – the International Day of the Disappeared, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) calls for urgent attention to be paid to resolving the problem of missing persons in the former Yugoslavia. The anguish of not knowing the fate of a missing loved one constitutes a daily torture for these thousands of mothers, sisters, and wives, as well as other relatives. Finally knowing the truth about the fate of a missing loved one and being able to give them a dignified funeral is critical to the overall peace building and reconciliation process for these individuals and their communities.The problem of disappearances is a global problem, with cases in more than 30 countries around the world. ICMP also offers its expression of solidarity to members of the Latin American non-governmental organization FEDEFAM (Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos- Desaparecidos), the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), the African continental network RADIF (Réseau Africain contre les Disparitions Forcées), and other family members of the disappeared around the world.

From its side, ICMP works to encourage the development of an appropriate local process to address this issue through its government relations, forensic sciences, and civil society initiatives programs, as well as the development of the national Missing Persons Institute (MPI) in BiH.

ICMP recommends:
• Encouraging release of all relevant information to reveal the truth: courage and political will must be shown, documents in the possession of government agencies should be released; persons with information should come forward, mechanisms for witness protection put in place, and inter-state and inter-entity cooperation to be strengthened.
• Continued support for local exhumation and identification efforts. Relatives of the missing should donate blood samples to allow for the possibility of identification by DNA if needed.
• Addressing the rights of living family members of the missing through appropriate legislation such as the proposed Law on Missing Persons in BiH, with consistent social benefits that can be transferred across entity lines, care for economic, housing, education, and health issues, and possible reparations for surviving relatives.
• Pursuit of adequate memorials and justice – the BiH government should be supported in the development of a special department of the State Court to process violations of international humanitarian law.

ICMP expresses its support to associations of families of missing persons who will be commemorating this day with gatherings and events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, the UN-Administered province of Kosovo, and FYR Macedonia. ICMP is sponsoring these events with grants and members of senior management will represent ICMP in each locality.
Gordon Bacon, Chief of Staff of ICMP said :
” By supporting these events organized by family associations we show our commitment to the process of helping families find closure, and to peace and justice in the region. We also show our solidarity with families all over the world who are missing loved ones. The right to know a missing person’s fate is part of international humanitarian law and we will continue in our efforts to find and identify the thousands of missing. By doing so we recognise the human rights both of the missing and of their families.”