ICMP and EU Office in Kosovo Launch Guide for Families of the Missing

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15 December 2016: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the EU Office in Kosovo today launched “The Kosovo Guide for Families of the Missing: Institutions, Process and the Rights of the Families”.

The Guide contains information on the institutions and their roles in addressing the missing persons issue, information on legislation and reparations, including the rights of families, the definition of a missing person – and how this definition is arrived at, how to report a missing person, the process of location and recovery of mortal remains, and the use of DNA for the purpose of human identification; as well as information on the role of civil society and memorialization, and instructions on the use of ICMP’s Online Inquiry Center (OIC).

The Guide is one of the main outputs of the project “Resolving the missing Persons Cases – Breaking the Impasse” funded through the EU Office in Kosovo and implemented by ICMP.

Thomas Gnocchi, Head of the Political, Economic and EU Integration Section at the EU Office in Kosovo, said the issue of missing persons goes far beyond this Guide, nevertheless the mapping of responsible institutions, structures and their responsibilities might ease some parts of this painful journey that the families of missing persons have undertaken. “It is of crucial importance that we jointly work towards resolving the cases of missing persons. We can certainly not diminish or lessen the pain and loss of a loved one, but we can ensure that the justice system is in service of those in need”, said Gnocchi.

Matthew Holliday, Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, said: “An empowered, well-informed and active civil society of associations of families of missing persons is indispensible to a robust and effective missing persons process.” He added that, in ICMP’s experience, “even when legislation that guarantees the rights of victims is adopted, without a well-informed and active civil society, implementation of the law can tend to fall short of expectations”.

Mr Holliday noted that ICMP is working with the authorities, with partner organizations and with families of the missing to address the issue of up to 400 sets of unidentified remains in the Pristina mortuary, which are potentially a result of probable misidentifications which occurred in 1999 and 2000, before the introduction of DNA testing as the primary means of human identification.

Sokol Havolli, Chief of Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, said the guide will enable the families of the missing to better access their rights. He added that the legal infrastructure is in place, but greater effort and cooperation is needed to find the missing.

Bajram Qerkini, President of the Family Association Parents’ Voice, invited families of the missing to use the guide to better inform themselves about their rights, and called on the Kosovo government to implement the existing laws and to do more to excavate known locations of gravesites.

Milorad Trifunovic, Head of the Mitrovica sub-office of the Family Association of kidnapped and missing, said the Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian families of the missing are working closely together to lobby the authorities to fulfil their obligations to search for and identify the missing. He added “the guide will help the families to access their rights”.

ICMP has been helping address the issue of persons missing as a result of the Kosovo conflict since 1999. It has supported the development of capacities of the Kosovo authorities to address the issue of missing persons – in particular the Kosovo Government Commission on Missing Persons. It has also helped Kosovo to establish a legal framework, which prescribes the rights of the families and the duties of the authorities. It has worked closely with families of the missing to empower them to claim their rights and to hold the authorities to account. It has also helped build inter-communal mechanisms among Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb families of the missing for the exchange of information and as a means to work together to push the authorities to resolve the fate of the missing.  Since 2003, ICMP has helped the authorities in Kosovo and Serbia to identify more than 2,500 missing persons with the help of modern scientific methods.

ICMP was created at the 1996 G-7 Summit to address the issue of persons missing as a consequence of the conflicts in the Western Balkans. It spearheaded an effort that made it possible to account for more than 70 percent of the 40,000 missing persons, including 7,000 of the 8,000 who went missing at Srebrenica in July 1995. Starting in 2004, it began working globally. In 2014, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg signed an international agreement establishing ICMP as an intergovernmental organization with headquarters in The Hague to respond to the global challenge of missing persons. Today ICMP is active throughout the world, exercising a mandate to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, migration, human rights abuses, disasters, crime and other causes, working with governments to establish legal frameworks, technical capacity and social consensus that makes it possible to launch and sustain effective strategies to account for the missing.

Link to the Kosovo Guide for Families of the Missing: Institutions, Process and the Rights of the Families: http://bit.ly/2hR5Q4g