The Right to the Truth

Participants at a Roundtable organized by ICMP in Sarajevo today highlighted the underlying fact that accounting for the missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the responsibility of the authorities.

The BiH Law on Missing Persons, and the Declaration signed by Western Balkans leaders in Mostar last summer assert the fundamental obligation of the state to address the issue of missing persons, and to ensure that the rights of family members are upheld and that survivors and civil society have access to information and a proper investigation.

Officials at every level of government are obliged to cooperate – fully and effectively – in accounting for the missing, whatever their ethnicity, whatever the circumstances of their disappearance.

A key way of doing this is to consolidate, review and verify records of the missing. The BiH authorities created the Central Evidentiary List of the Missing (CEN) in 2011. However, only around half of the more than 34,964 names listed have gone through a verification process.

The principal agency with legal responsibility for coordinating all efforts to account for the missing is the BiH Missing Persons Institute (MPI). It is imperative that the MPI receives the full support of the authorities and of all who are engaged in the search for the missing, participants in today’s Roundtable said, noting that in recent years this support has been decreasing.

Supporting the MPI and speeding up the process of verifying the CEN are among 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 different parts of the country.

Participants agreed that implementing these recommendations will make a substantial contribution to the efforts of the BiH authorities to fulfil their legal obligations – and it will make a substantial contribution to helping the thousands of families in this country who still seek the truth about the fate of a loved one.

A further Roundtable will be organized in Banja Luka on 26 March.