Missing Persons Institute Launched on International Day of the Disappeared

The Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia-Herzegovina was officially launched this morning at a ceremony at the Government Joint Institutions Building in Sarajevo. Bosnia-Herzegovina's Minister for Human Rights and Refugees, Mirsad Kebo, and Chief of Staff of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, signed the agreement that established the Council of Ministers as a co-founder of the Institute, along with the ICMP, thereby launching the Institute at the level of the State of Bosnia Herzegovina.Until today's State-level launch of the Missing Persons Institute (MPI), which was originally created in 2000 by ICMP, responsibility for addressing the issue of the missing from the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) was divided between the country's two highly autonomous entities.

“The implementation of the Missing Persons Institute marks a milestone in the history of both BiH and the International Commission on Missing Persons,” said Kathryne Bomberger in a speech at the signing ceremony. “By creating a sustainable, State-level structure, BiH has taken an important step forward in addressing the issue of the missing regardless of the ethnic, religious or national origin of the person being searched for. This is no small feat.”

The ICMP has been working with all stakeholders involved in the issue of the missing in Bosnia-Herzegovina for more than seven years to build the political will to launch the MPI at the State-level. At the signing ceremony, Kathryne Bomberger recognized in particular the strength and determination of the family members of the missing, from all ethnic groups, who had been a major motivation for the establishment of the MPI at the State-level.

The MPI will take over all the responsibilities, staff and budgets of the current entity bodies and will establish a central database to keep records of the missing and notify the families. The central database will help address the concerns of family members and their communities about the actual numbers of missing persons and where they went missing.

“Today Bosnia and Herzegovina has demonstrated historic courage in facing its past, but we must remember that of the 30,000 persons who went missing at the end of the conflicts here, there are between 15,000 to 20,000 persons still to be found,” said Kathryne Bomberger at the ceremony. “For this reason, the issue of missing persons probably constitutes one of the most important human rights issues facing Bosnia today.

“As the original founder and now the co-founder of MPI along with the Council of Ministers, ICMP calls upon the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that the Institute is sustainable, impartial, credible and strong and that its work is a priority for the sake of the families of the missing, as well as all of its citizens and for the future of this country.”

August 30, International Day of the Disappeared, has been adopted as a day of commemoration of the missing and the day on which governments around the world are reminded of their responsibility to address the issue of missing persons.