Systematic, Professional and Impartial Effort to Find the Missing Must Continue

21 April 2015: The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must maintain a systematic, professional, and impartial effort to account for the missing, even though nearly 20 years have passed since the end of the conflict, Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic said today.

Mr Zvizdic was speaking during a meeting in Sarajevo with Kathryne Bomberger, Director-General of the International Commission Persons (ICMP). At the meeting Ms Bomberger briefed the Chairman of the Council of Ministers on ICMP’s Stocktaking Report, which describes in detail the efforts that have been undertaken over more than two decades to account for the missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He stressed that the key institutions responsible for addressing the missing persons issue, the Missing Persons Institute and the BiH Prosecutor’s Office, must be given the political, administrative and financial support that they need in order to do their job, and all available methods should be deployed to locate remaining undiscovered gravesites in every part of the country.

Ms Bomberger highlighted the urgent need to implement the Law on Missing Persons fully. Though the law was enacted in 2004, central provisions, such as establishing a fund for the families of the missing, have not yet been put into practice. She stressed the fact that the state must remain vigilant and support the institutions responsible for the process, i.e. Missing Persons Institute, the Prosecutor’s office and the courts, including restoring the MPI’s budget so that it can carry out its work. “The Council of Ministers should assume full control over what has been a very successful process and full responsibility for the managerial oversight of the MPI and reform the MPI so it is in line with other state institutions.” said ICMP’s Director-General.

“ICMP has been able to make almost 15,000 identifications since it introduced the DNA-led approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2001,” she said. “DNA identification is based on pure science: it has nothing to do with ethnicity or politics – if the relevant institutions have the support of every level of government and every political party, as well as the active cooperation of family associations, they will be able to continue making identifications and that is the outcome that we all want to see.”

In Banja Luka last week, ICMP completed a series of roundtable meetings organized throughout the country, at which academics and other experts on the missing persons issue discussed the recommendations in the Stocktaking Report and proposed strategies for sustaining the effort to identify those who are still missing.