Regional Cooperation on the File of the Missing

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) organized the second meeting on regional cooperation on missing persons between representatives of the governments from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Serbia. The meeting provided a forum for multilateral discussions and an exchange of information regarding a variety of issues including recovery and identification operations, funding issues and support to family associations representing missing persons from the conflicts.According to the representatives of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina the most pressing is to sign bilateral agreements between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. “It is through the bilateral agreements that we can formalise our mutual cooperation, although we still can work on the basis of protocols, signed between the Tracing Commissions of our three countries”, emphasised Mr. Ivan Grujic from the Croatian Ministry of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Inter-generation Solidarity, Administration for Detained and Missing Persons. The signing of bilateral agreements is the most important step for the Serbian Commission on Missing Persons: “Republic of Serbia and Republic of Croatia have signed bilateral agreement on cooperation on the missing file. It is necessary to make similar agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina”, said Mr. Gvozden Gagic, from the Serbian Commission on Missing Persons.

The future representatives of the Missing Persons Institute, including the Acting Directors, agreed that implementation of the protocols between BiH and the neighbouring states were very important. In addition, they encouraged the Council of Ministers to finalize the appointments to the management bodies of the MPI. According to these representatives, in 2006, approximately 2,500 sets of human remains were exhumed from a multitude of locations in BiH.

The representatives of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina together with ICRC and ICMP joined the concerns about the delay in functioning of the MPI and emphasised that it was important to appoint MPI Steering Board Members by the Council of Ministers. Mrs. Saliha Djuderija from the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees also gave an update on the implementation of the Law on Missing Persons.

The Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons, Ms. Kathryne Bomberger said that the ICMP has collected blood samples from relatives of 27,797 missing persons in the region. In addition, ICMP has extracted DNA profiles from bone samples related to 14,809 missing persons. From those profiles, ICMP has made DNA assisted identifications of 11,735 missing persons. All of these DNA reports have been submitted to the governments in the region. Further more she announced that with regard to BiH, ICMP's plans include training for MPI staff in a variety of fields, including the use of the ICMP Forensic Data Management System (fDMS), which will be incorporated into the MPI Central Records.

The ICRC presented its activities in the Republic of Croatia, Republic of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and submitted to the participants 28 cases of persons unaccounted for, recently reported by their relatives as well as a list of 741 closed cases since the previous regional cooperation meeting in July 2006. Ms. Marianne Gasser, outgoing ICRC Head of Delegation, thanked the participants for their cooperation and introduced her successor Mr. Henry Fournier. “It has been a privilege to work in this country and to benefit from your perseverance to not allow families and their beloved missing relatives to be forgotten. I sincerely hope that your humanitarian work will continue to be recognised and that the families will further receive from you reliable information on their loved ones with every new day to come”, said Ms. Gasser.