International Day of the Disappeared

On the International Day of Disappeared, the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) of Bosnia and Herzegovina wish to highlight that thousands of persons remain unaccounted for in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of more than 30,000 missing persons at the end of the conflict, an estimated 13,000 are still missing. Their families continue to live in uncertainty and anguish hoping to receive news regarding the fate of their missing relatives.“The International Day of Disappeared is when we commemorate all those who are missing as a consequence of enforced disappearance, armed conflict, crimes against humanity and other atrocities. While progress has been made in the context of Bosnia and Herzegovina in addressing the issue of the missing persons, it is still the one of the most important human rights issues facing not only BiH but the other regions of the former Yugoslavia as well,” said the ICMP Director-General, Ms. Kathryne Bomberger. “ICMP provides governments with technical assistance in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons, including the use of high-throughput capacity DNA testing. To date, ICMP has provided governments with DNA matches for 13,000 missing individuals, allowing the authorities to return mortal remains and adding to scientifically based societal truth,” said Bomberger adding that “out of that number, 10,000 matches are for persons from BiH.”

In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been moving to fully meet its obligations to the families of the missing, first by passing the Law on Missing Persons in 2004 and this July by completing the establishment of the Missing Persons Institute, a State level body which will address the issue of the missing in a manner fully respecting international legal standards, bringing closure to families of all ethnic and religious backgrounds and aiding Bosnian society in addressing the past. The Chairperson of the MPI Steering Board, Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur, called on citizens to come forward with information on whereabouts of the missing. In speaking of the ongoing work she stated “Our priorities are the creation of central records of the missing and resolving the status of the missing person’s families through application of the existing state and entity legislation”, said Dzumhur.

“The responsibility for providing answers to the families of missing persons rests with the authorities, who have committed themselves in the Dayton Peace Agreement to account for every missing person and to provide official information to the families. The ICRC is there to support their efforts with any available means it has. The ICRC’s involvement in initiation and creation of the Law on Missing, its data base of the missing persons and ante-mortem data, which are used by authorities and experts in identification of mortal remains, as well as its involvement in all the national and regional coordination aimed at clarification of the destiny of the missing have shown the ICRC’s continuous determination to the tracing process”, said the ICRC Head of Delegation in BiH, Mr. Henry Fournier.

On the International Day of the Disappeared, the ICRC, ICMP and MPI also wish to commend the important work carried out by the Federation Commission on Missing Persons and the Office for Tracing the Missing and Detained Persons of the Republika Srpska, who joined recently their activities under one roof the Missing Persons Institute. Their work has been fundamental to the process of clarifying the fate of all remaining missing persons in BiH. The ICRC and ICMP, as well as MPI’s management, hope that their joint efforts will continue to develop within the Missing Persons Institute and speed up the entire process.