Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina 28 February 2023 – Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) Director-General Carin Jämtin, Ambassador of Sweden to Bosnia and Herzegovina Johanna Stromquist, Head of the Europe and Latin America Department at Sida, Lisa Fredriksson, and the Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden in BIH, Eva Smedberg. witnessed the painstaking process of identifying victims of the conflict in former Yugoslavia during their visit to see the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
During the visit to Tuzla, the delegation that was accompanied by the Deputy Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, Samira Krehic learned how ICMP collects genetic reference samples from the families of the missing and how essential this is for the scientifically accurate, blinded process of DNA matching used to identify missing persons. So far, ICMP has collected data from 100,000 families of the missing and over 50,000 post mortem samples from government authorities in the region. This has enabled countries in the region to account for more than 70 percent of the 40,000 missing persons from all national, ethnic, and religious groups.
“Swedish government and Sida have been one of the most important financial supporters of ICMP’s work in the Western Balkans and worldwide”, Ms. Krehic said. “In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and elsewhere we are working together to assist the countries to account for the missing and to uphold the rights of families of the missing”.
Sida Director-General Carin Jämtin said: “I am impressed by the dedicated work of ICMP in the difficult task of identifying missing persons in BiH, contributing to the right to truth and justice for the families of the missing. It is also encouraging to learn about ICMP’s work to transfer the ownership of the process of identifying missing persons to the domestic authorities in BiH.”
At the Podrinje Identification Project, a facility established to assist with the identification of Srebrenica genocide victims, they observed the process of anthropological examination of victims. Using DNA-based identification methods, ICMP has assisted Bosnia and Herzegovina in the identification of 7,000 of the more than 8,000 persons who were missing following the Srebrenica genocide. The work continues to find new mass and clandestine graves and to identify the remaining missing.
ICMP scientific data, including DNA records, have been admitted as evidence at trials before the ICTY and courts in the region in 30 criminal trials. The evidence has been cross-examined in detail numerous times and consistently upheld, demonstrating the value of investigating missing persons cases to judicial standards that makes it possible to hold perpetrators of atrocities to account.
With the financial assistance of its donors, ICMP’s Western Balkans Program continues to provide support to BIH in terms of forensic archaeology and anthropology at excavations and access to ICMP’s DNA testing and matching for the purpose of human identification of missing persons.
It also continues to facilitate the work of Missing Persons Group (MPG), a multilateral post-conflict cooperation mechanism which comprises domestic institutions responsible for missing persons issues, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. The MPG emerged from the Declaration on Missing Persons signed by the heads of government of 16 Western Balkans Berlin Process countries, including Western Balkans heads of government, in London in 2018. The MPG operates in line with a mutually agreed Framework Plan of activities focusing on issues of importance to all members for the resolution of the missing persons issue in the Western Balkans.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.