One Year on, Western Balkans Shared Database Remains Crucial to Regional Efforts to Find the Missing

Photo from the launch of the Regional Database in The Hague, November 3, 2022.

The Hague, 3 November 2023: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Regional Database of active missing persons cases from conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia. The Database was launched by the Western Balkans Missing Persons Group (MPG), which comprises Heads and other senior representatives of institutions from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia that are responsible for accounting for missing persons. The MPG was established with the support of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in November 2018.

The Regional Database provides the MPG members with a modern software platform for the exchange of data in real time data and families of the missing with accurate and up-to-date information on missing persons cases from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Despite political challenges, enduring cooperation among domestic institutions in the region has been instrumental in maintaining this vital resource.

“The Regional Database, launched in November 2022, is a testament to the commitment of the domestic institutions in the region,” ICMP Europe Director Matthew Holliday said today, noting that the domestic institutions “have collaborated to create a unified and accurate record of all active missing persons cases”.

More than 40,000 people went missing during the armed conflicts of the 1990s, and to date more than 70 percent of the missing have been accounted for. The Regional Database contains a total of 11,355 active cases, which MPG members are investigating either individually or in cooperation with one another.  Over the last 12 months, through the exchange of information and with ICMP’s support, the MPG has corrected data in 384 cases and closed 165 missing persons cases. In this period, more than 17,000 members of the public from across the globe have accessed the database.

“The creation and constant use of this public database is a striking example of regional cooperation,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today. “It reflects a commitment to providing factual information and de-politicizing the issue of missing persons.” She also highlighted the fact that, “The Regional Database already serves as a model for countries around the world that are faced with the daunting task of accounting for large numbers of missing persons as a result of human rights abuses.”

The MPG unveiled its annual report at the dedicated event on the margins of the recent Tirana Summit of the Berlin Process. The report underscores the dedication of the MPG members and other key stakeholders to address the issue of missing persons. Summit participants commended the MPG for its substantive contribution to regional cooperation.

The MPG’s work focuses on implementing the Framework Plan that stems from a Declaration signed in London in July 2018, in which the Prime Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland reiterated their commitment to support efforts to account for those who are still missing as a result of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Activities under the Framework Plan are funded by the United Kingdom and Germany.

The governments of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany have provided vital support for this project, recognizing its significance in fostering peace, stability, and good neighborly relations in the Western Balkans.

About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating persons missing as a result of conflicts, human rights abuses, disasters, organized violence and other causes and to assist them in doing so.