Conclusions of Associations of Families of Missing Persons for Former Yugoslavia

The Seventh Regional Conference on Missing Persons Issues for associations of families of missing persons was held in Sarajevo from 16 May 2003 to 19 May 2003 at the Hotel Saraj, Sarajevo, organised by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

This conference was attended by more than 75 family association representatives, members of Government Commissions on Missing Persons from the former Yugoslavia, and other institutions concerned with the missing persons issue.

For the first time, family associations and government representatives from Macedonia participated in the regional conference. Despite being the first time that opposing sides to the conflict in Macedonia had met, they agreed on joint activities in the future and recognised that they could learn from families who already had such experience of cooperation.

Associations discussed common issues regardless of religious or national background, and concluded that they will be stronger if they work together on lobbying responsible government authorities, improving exchanges of information and on coordination between associations. This should all be on a local and inter-entity basis as well as on a bi-lateral and regional level.

Participants of the conference appealed for more support from governments and international organisations in addressing the rights of family members of the missing, not only in establishing the truth about the fate of their loved ones, but also in improving the social and economic conditions of families. Families had an opportunity to hear an update from a representative of BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees on the process for the drafting of a Law on Missing Persons in BiH, which is being developed at the request of the families. Representatives from other countries in the region will recommend similar initiatives to their governments.

The families were pleased with the progress on DNA identification and recommended closer cooperation within and between countries in the region in order to bring answers to families more quickly. Family associations agreed to continue their efforts to educate relatives of the missing about the identification process and the need to provide blood samples.

Conclusions and recommendations were presented to members of the ICMP Board at a meeting on Monday, May 19th, 2003 from 9:00 – 10:00 at the Hotel “Saraj” in Sarajevo. These included Mr. Michael Portillo, former Secretary of State for Defence of Great Britain, Mr. Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan, former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, and Willem (Wim) Kok, former Prime Minister of The Netherlands.