Sarajevo, 10 July 2023: The DNA-led process developed in Bosnia and Herzegovina to identify victims of the Srebrenica Genocide and other crimes has contributed to a fundamental change in the way that countries address issues of truth and justice in war, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, said today.
Ms Bomberger was speaking in Potocari at an international conference on Srebrenica organized by Srebrenica Memorial Center and World Jewish Congress. She noted that in the years immediately after the war in former Yugoslavia “some argued that documenting the crime and identifying the victims would undermine efforts to restore peace. During those years, when the process of identification was slow, Genocide denial was rife.”
However, when ICMP launched a radically new process in 2001 based on comparing DNA from unidentified human remains with DNA taken from living relatives of missing persons, the pace of identifications quickened exponentially, and “denial was countered by evidence. It became clear that uncovering the truth is the key to justice – and justice is the key to peace. No one now argues that war crimes should go unexamined or unpunished.”
As a result of the DNA-led process pioneered by ICMP, more than 7,000 of the 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica Genocide have been identified. Following the identification and reassembly of skeletal remains, a process that can involve recovery from multiple clandestine gravesites and may continue for a period of years, the remains of 30 more victims will be buried at the Potocari Memorial Center outside Srebrenica during this year’s memorial event.
Ms Bomberger, who will attend the ceremony tomorrow at Potocari to mark the 28th anniversary of the Genocide, pointed out that in Ukraine the authorities have already launched a process to account for those who have gone missing as a result of the Russian invasion – even in the midst of the conflict – because “they understand the absolute necessity of securing truth, justice and reparations for families.”
She said ICMP “stands in solidarity with the families of those who have disappeared in conflict and will continue steadfastly to implement its mandate to help them secure truth, justice and reparations.”
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.