17 March 2015: The authorities must implement the BiH Law on Missing Persons fully and as a matter of urgency, participants at a roundtable in Mostar agreed today.
The roundtable, organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), brought together representatives of family associations and the authorities as well as academic and legal experts to discuss ways of increasing the effectiveness of efforts to account for the missing.
The BiH Law on Missing Persons was enacted at the end of 2004, providing for the establishment of the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) to coordinate the search for the missing, the establishment of the Central Records of Missing Persons, and the establishment of a Fund to ensure that families of the missing receive necessary financial support. The Law also prescribes procedures for memorials.
The MPI was launched in 2005 and became fully operational in 2008. The Central Records were created in 2011, but only half of the more than 30,000 names listed have gone through a verification process, and the slow pace of verification has been one of the contributory factors to the authorities’ failure until now to establish the Fund for Support to Families of the Missing.
The Fund was seen as a practical way of helping families who are in many cases among the most vulnerable in society. In its absence, many families have been left to manage as best they can without even minimal support from the authorities.
Implementing the Law on Missing Persons, including establishing the Fund for the Families of the Missing, was one of the recommendations presented in the BiH Stocktaking Report, published by ICMP in December, 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.
Further roundtables will be organized in Sarajevo on 19 March and in Banja Luka on 26 March.