“Addressing the Past is Important for the Future of this Country”: German Ambassador

25 May 2007: The German Ambassador and current Presidency of the EU in BiH, H.E. Michael Schmunk, yesterday led a delegation of representatives from EU embassies and missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina in a visit of the Tuzla facilities of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

Accompanied by the ICMP Director-General, Kathryne Bomberger, they visited three facilities, including one where the mortal remains of Srebrenica genocide victims are re-associated, another where these mortal remains are stored and identified and the ICMP center where all blood samples collected by ICMP from relatives of the missing and all bone samples received from government authorities are archived and sent to ICMP labs for DNA-led analysis.“In order for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve a sense of trust among each other and to build confidence in their future, they must honestly deal with the events of the past, no matter how dark certain chapters were,” said Ambassador Schmunk following the visit. “I am impressed with the technical assistance that ICMP has provided to this country in identifying mortal remains found in conflict-related mass grave sites through the use of science. For this reason it is important that my country and other EU member states and the European Commission continue to support this important process”. He added that, “ICMP’s work serves as an important model for other post-conflict countries.”

ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger expressed her gratitude to the German Ambassador and the other members of the delegation for the support their governments have provided to ICMP’s work to date. Ms. Bomberger reiterated that the issue of missing persons remains one of the most important human rights issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. “Thousands of families of the missing are still waiting for information on the whereabouts of their loved ones. We call upon governments in the region to put pressure on those who have information regarding these missing persons to come forward with information which is also critical to this process”, Bomberger said.

Currently, ICMP has blood samples from over 83,000 relatives representing over 28,000 missing individuals – on average it takes the blood references of 3 family members to identify one victim. In addition ICMP has received over 21,000 bone samples from government authorities taken from mortal remains of persons recovered from mass graves. Comparing the DNA of samples of the victim and the samples received from the relatives of missing persons has resulted in 17,500 DNA matches relating to 11,600 different individuals. These results have been achieved in just five years since the first identification of a 16 year old boy from Srebrenica. Following the cessation of conflicts there were approximately 40,000 persons missing from the region, of which BiH had 30,000. Ten years later those numbers have decreased by over 20.000.