During a visit to the facilities of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Tuzla yesterday, H.E. the Ambassador of Serbia to BiH, Grujica Spasovic, said he was very impressed by the work and with the results that ICMP has achieved in locating, recovering and identifying persons missing from the conflicts of the 1990's in the Western Balkans.
Accompanied by the ICMP Director-General, Kathryne Bomberger, Ambassador Spasovic visited three facilities, including one where the mortal remains of victims of the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 are re-associated and another where these remains are stored and identified. Finally, there was a visit to the ICMP center where all blood samples collected by ICMP from relatives of the missing and all bone samples received from government authorities throughout the region and elsewhere in the world are archived and sent to ICMP labs for DNA analysis.
“I am here to express Serbia's support for the efforts of the International Commission on Missing Persons in their efforts to assist in the resolution of the missing persons issue. I am deeply moved by what I have seen and impressed by ICMP's expertise and professionalism”, Ambassador Spasovic said following the visit.
“It is very important that the governments in the regions of the Western Balkans continue to come forward with information regarding the fate of persons missing from the various conflicts. By providing impartial, scientific evidence of a person's identity, through the use of DNA testing, ICMP is not only helping thousands of families with missing loved ones, but it is also providing accurate information that should be used by government authorities when accounting for numbers of persons missing from the conflicts”, Bomberger said.
Of some 30,000 persons missing following the cessation of conflicts there are still about 13,500 persons unaccounted for today. This fact constitutes one of the biggest human rights issues facing BiH today. Since November 2001, ICMP has led the way in using DNA as a first step in the process of identification. ICMP has information from 85,362 relatives of 28,395 missing people and 24,134 bone samples taken from mass graves throughout the former Yugoslavia. By matching DNA from the relatives’ blood with DNA from victims ICMP has been assisted the identification of 12,921 missing individuals from the region including 5,000 from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica.
In addition to its technical support, ICMP is the co-founder of the Missing Persons Institute of BiH. ICMP also contributes to transitional justice activities, provides legislative support and helps in the development of networks of civil society organizations which advocate for truth, justice, and for the rights of family members of missing persons.