Daily World News Digest, 30 October 2015

Worsening weather brings more tragedy to eastern Aegean

UNHCR issued a news on 29 October saying that at least 15 people died, several of them children, and some 38 others are missing in five incidents involving smuggler boats carrying hundreds of refugees and migrants across a wind-whipped channel between Turkey and the Greek islands. In the most serious incident, a wooden boat that passengers said had been carrying at least 300 people sank in gale-force winds off the north coast of Lesvos Island Wednesday evening. 34 missing persons had been identified, in addition to four missing in other incidents Wednesday. The search for survivors of the shipwreck continued Thursday, but by midday there were no further reports of anyone being found. The sinking was one of five serious boat incidents on Wednesday and brought renewed pleas for help in the eastern Aegean. Alessandra Morelli, UNHCR’s Senior Operations Coordinator for Greece said that with the worsening weather conditions, there is an urgent need for strengthening of the search and rescue capacity in the area, where Greek, Turkish and vessels from other European countries have already rescued tens of thousands people so far this year. http://bit.ly/1RDjEec

Kiev and DPR exchange lists of prisoners and missing persons

Tass, a Russian news agency, reported today that representatives of Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) exchanged updated lists of prisoners and missing persons at the talks of the Contact Group’s sub-group on humanitarian issues in Minsk on 27 October. Ukraine provided a list made from appeals of relatives of missing persons. The list includes 1,500 people. Another list included 778 people – those who went missing in the conflict zone. According to the source, DPR handed Ukraine the list of 1,351 prisoners “with proof they are held in Ukraine’s territory”. The Ukrainian side agreed with the Donetsk republic’s delegate to accept the list and to confirm that they really have so many prisoners. The Minsk accords were signed on 12 February, after negotiations in the Belarusian capital Minsk. The Minsk accords envisage ceasefire, weaponry withdrawal, prisoner exchange, local election in Donbass, constitutional reform in Ukraine and establishing working sub-groups on security, political, economy and humanitarian components of the Minsk accord. http://bit.ly/1M4Ih3r

OSCE: Serbia war crimes prosecutions inadequate and incomplete

The Jurist carried a story on 29 October saying that Serbia has yet to completely investigate and adequately prosecute war crimes that occurred in the 1990s conflict, according to a report released Tuesday by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The report, which details the OSCE’s mission to Serbia and the 2003-2014 war crimes proceedings, states that the number of investigations are decreasing and high ranking officials have not faced prosecution yet. The Serbian Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor has only indicted 162 individuals accused of war crimes against citizens and prisoners. The main issue affecting continued prosecutions is that most of the necessary evidence and witnesses are outside of Serbia’s jurisdiction, requiring international cooperation that is not always available. According to the report, the Prosecutors contributed to the delay in prosecutions by making judicial errors. http://bit.ly/1kfTFOZ

President of Cyprus calls on Turkey to cooperate on missing persons

Greek Reporter carried a story on 29 October saying that the issue of missing persons cannot be resolved without the effective cooperation of Turkey, President Anastasiades said. In a speech delivered on Thursday at a Church memorial service for the missing persons of the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, the President once again called on Ankara to implement its commitments. Moreover, Anastasiades assured that solution to the humanitarian problem of the missing persons and to the tragedy experienced by their families, is a top priority for the Government. The President also referred to the work carried out by the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), pointing out that, “The support of the Cypriot Government to CMP by no means implies our satisfaction for the results so far.” He said that in order for CMP to proceed with the exhumation program, CMP should address specific problems, mainly originating from the lack of sufficient cooperation from the Turkish side. Anastasiades called all states, especially EU members, to intensify their efforts towards Turkey.  http://bit.ly/1P178HS

Sri Lanka: A ray of hope for those looking for the missing

Inter Press Service news agency carried a story on 29 October saying that Thavarasa Utharai’s husband went missing on 20 March, 2009 while returning home after tending to his cattle. No one really knows what happened to him. Thavarasa is confident that he was abducted by government military. The abduction took place as a three decade old bloody civil conflict was drawing to an end. She has sought the intervention of police, the Presidential Commission and the ICRC to gain any information about her husband. So far the only information, which came from Criminal Investigation Deprtment, was that she would be eligible for 700 dollars in compensation if she registers her husband as deceased. Her circumstances are not rare in the former conflict-zone as tens of thousands are still looking for their missing loved ones. However, things changed in January when the new President, Maithripala Sirisena, took the office. The new government has renewed engagement with the UN and has pledged to strengthen efforts to trace the missing and provide compensation. For the families of the missing, there is at least a new ray of hope, with the Commission looking into allegations of abductions and disappearances. http://bit.ly/1NEvCDo

Items in Daily World News Digest are summaries of published reports relevant to the issue of missing persons, compiled by ICMP staff.  These items do not necessarily reflect the position of ICMP.