Communication among All Stakeholders Is Essential in Accounting for the Missing

Participants at meetings organized this week by ICMP in Tuzla and Brcko – the first of a series of Town Hall meetings that will be held throughout the country during February – unanimously agreed that the book-length Stocktaking Report published by ICMP, which describes two decades of work on accounting for missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a valuable platform for further dialogue on missing persons issues based on documented facts.

“We find and we feel that the issue of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been addressed by ICMP without any kind of discrimination,” Milja Mitrovic of the Bijeljina Association of Missing Persons and the RS Association of Missing Persons said at the conclusion of today’s meeting in Brcko. “The presentation of the Stocktaking Report reflects this.”

At both meetings, representatives of associations of families of missing persons, the BiH Missing Persons Institute, the BiH Prosecutor’s Office, and the BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees agreed that effective communication among all stakeholders is crucial in order to sustain the process of accounting for the missing.

“Several important steps forward have been taken by the BiH authorities,” Matthew Holliday, head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, said today in Brcko. “The institutional infrastructure – the BiH Law on Missing Persons and the MPI – is in place. ICMP is confident that the institutions are now in a position to use their expertise and authority to help the families of missing persons.”

ICMP began both meetings by presenting BiH, Missing Persons from the Armed Conflicts of the 1990s: A Stocktaking, which describes two decades of efforts to account for the missing and examines specific issues in Lower Podrinje, Upper Podrinje, Herzegovina, Sarajevo, Posavina, Central Bosnia, Northeast Bosnia and Western Bosnia.

The Stocktaking Report recommends next steps, including:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina must sustain the effort to account for the remaining 8,000 persons missing from the conflict by ensuring that its institutions, including the Missing Persons Institute and the BIH Prosecutor’s Office remain strong and engaged;
  • BIH must fully implement the Law on Missing Persons, which provides for the Central Records on Missing Persons (CEN), as well as for a Fund benefiting the families of the missing;
  • BIH should explore new approaches to locating gravesites, including aerial and satellite imagery;
  • The ongoing effort of systematically reassessing past processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mortuaries should be continued as a priority; and
  • Associations of family members of missing persons should continue their lobbying efforts to claim their rights to truth and justice. In particular they should continue to convene annual Regional Conferences to advocate for their rights and to ensure that progress is sustained in the future.

Town Hall meetings to discuss further steps in accounting for the missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be held on 10 February at Hotel Sarajevo, on 12 February at Hotel Bristol in Mostar and on 17 February at Hotel Bosna in Banja Luka.