The Hague, 3 November 2022: As part of the Berlin Process, today in The Hague the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Missing Persons Group (MPG), which comprises domestic institutions responsible for missing persons issues, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, launched a Regional Database of active missing persons cases from conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
The creation of this unique, interactive database means that up-to-date records are now publicly available at all times, and it enables families of the missing and others to review existing records and provide online feedback to domestic institutions.
“The creation of this public database is a striking example of regional cooperation: it reflects a commitment to providing factual information and de-politicizing the issue of missing persons,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today. “The Regional Database will serve as a model for countries in every part of the world that are faced with the daunting task of accounting for large numbers of missing persons as a result of conflict.”
The Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, Matthew Holliday, paid tribute to the commitment of the domestic institutions in the region, which have cooperated in order to create a single list of missing persons cases. “This will ensure transparency and it will increase trust among stakeholders across the region,” he said.
Haki Kasumi, Chair of the Regional Committee of the Regional Network of Associations of Missing Persons Families from the territory of the former Yugoslavia, said, “The Regional Network welcomes the joint effort of the institutions responsible for missing persons issues within the MPG, including the creation of the Regional Database. Despite the efforts made so far, over 11,000 people are still missing. So, it is crucial that additional efforts are made to locate as many of these people possible and bring closure to their families.”
Veljko Odalovic, President of the Commission on Missing Persons of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, said, “The MPG has enhanced multilateral cooperation to address missing persons cases and it is helping to bring closure to families. This work builds trust among the domestic institutions and contributes to confidence in the integrity of the effort that every institution is investing in accounting for and identifying missing persons. This will help to depoliticize the issue.”
Dragan Djukanovic, President of the Commission on Missing Persons of Montenegro, said, “With the inclusion of the process of accounting for missing persons in the framework of the Berlin Process and with the launch of the Regional Database, we have made a commitment, and we have shown that we are ready for regional cooperation. This commitment is necessary, and it encourages us to intensify our activities.”
Ivona Paltrinieri, Director of the Directorate for Detainees and Missing Persons of the Ministry of Croatian Veterans, said, “Thinking about the needs of family members, who live with the burden of not knowing the truth about the whereabouts of their missing relatives, we know that the Regional Database will benefit them. The fact that the Database allows users to provide additional information makes it even more useful, so I would like to take this opportunity to invite all those who may have information about a missing persons case to use this option to come forward and share this information.”
Mujo Hadziomerovic, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina said: “Members of the MPG are responsible for exceptional achievement in the process of accounting for missing persons, as they have investigated and resolved more than 70% of cases of persons missing from conflicts on the territory of the Former Yugoslavia. This is the most successful and the most sustainable effort achieved anywhere in the world in accounting for missing persons from an armed conflict. It is the result of an integrated approach based on the rule of law, engagement of families of the missing, use of up-to date scientific methods and advanced IT data systems”.
Andin Hoti, Chairman, Kosovo Government Commission on Missing Persons said: “Having in mind the sensitivity and complexity of the process, we are very well aware that our work is evaluated by the missing persons families on emotional lenses who accept only clear and definite results and answers in a timely manner. An important job has been done in the operationalization of the regional database, but there is still work to be done in the implementation of the other components of the Framework plan”.
The governments of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany have for many years supported efforts to strengthen regional cooperation in order to resolve missing persons cases from the conflicts of the 1990s.
Lucy Ferguson, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in The Hague, said, “The Regional Database is a significant milestone in accounting for missing people in the Western Balkans. It is an example of meaningful cooperation that will offer families – and societies in the region – an opportunity to secure justice, to heal, and to move forward.”
Christiane Hullmann, Head of the Western Balkans Division at the Federal Foreign Office Berlin, said “I am convinced that this project will contribute to peace, stability and good neighbourly relations in the Western Balkans. It enhances the level of cooperation in the process, and enables the families to access their rights.”
The Regional Database is managed by the Missing Persons Group (MPG). It currently contains a total of 11,396 records. This number will change when new cases are reported or when cases are resolved. The database is searchable by first name, father’s first name, last name, and reported territory of disappearance. By clicking on a specific search result, more data categories are opened up to view.
The MPG is an active, multilateral post-conflict cooperation mechanism. It 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. The governments of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany are funding implementation of the Framework Plan.
To ensure accountability, the MPG reports annually to the Western Balkans Berlin Process summits, and to an annual forum of associations of families of missing persons from across the Western Balkans and Croatia.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with headquarters in The Hague. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying 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.