Ambassador Sørensen and senior diplomats visit major excavation sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina

During the visit at Tomasica in Prijedor

During the visit at Tomasica in Prijedor

25 September 2013: The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU Special Representative, Ambassador Peter Sørensen, together with the EUFOR Commander, Major General Dieter Heidecker, and senior diplomats accredited to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) visited two major excavation sites in Sarajevo and Prijedor today. During this visit they were briefed about the results of the work so far and reiterated their support for this important process.

The visit was organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) which is providing technical assistance to BiH authorities in locating, recovering and identifying persons missing from the conflicts of the 1990s. The delegation also included:

• Ambassador Ulrike Maria Knotz, Embassy of Germany
• Ambassador Vibeke Lilloe, Embassy of Norway
• Ambassador Jurriaan Kraak, Embassy of The Netherlands
• Deputy Head of Mission Joanne Lomas, Embassy of the United Kingdom
• Deputy Head of Mission Yasemin Eralp, Embassy of Turkey
• First Secretary Jonathan Francis, Embassy of Sweden
• Third Secretary Khanh Nguyen, Embassy of USA.

Head of the EU Delegation to BiH/EUSR Ambassador Peter Sørensen said:

“The European Union, together with other members of the international community, is fully committed to assisting BiH authorities in accounting for missing persons from the armed conflicts of the 1990’s. While 70% of those missing have been accounted for, approximately 9,000 persons remain unaccounted for. Their families have the right to know what happened to their missing relatives. Governments, military authorities and former armed groups have an obligation to provide all the relevant information they hold, and assist in efforts to put families back together. We fully support the work of ICMP which ensurestake a rule of law based approach, incorporating the latest in modern forensic methods. The EU is very impressed with the work that BiH Missing Persons Institute and ICMP have accomplished so far and has since 2003 supported their work with over 5 million Euro and will continue to support the process with 2 Million Euro in the next two years. In addition to over 33 million Euro provided in bilateral contributions from member states.”

ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger said:

“The excavation sites that we are visiting today are some of the most complexundertaken in the region. The process of investigating these disappearances is a painstaking one which requires careful excavation of clandestine gravesites and precise documentation of evidence that is recovered.ICMP is dedicated to providing its full technical assistance to ensure that BiH authorities not only provide answers to the families of the missing, but that they also ensure justice for all victims.”

The excavation works at the Sarajevo city dump began in April 2013 and so far the BiH Missing Persons Institute (MPI) and the BiH Prosecutor’s Office (PO) have been removing 20 years of garbage deposits in preparation for finding and recovering remains. According to witnesses up to 100 persons may be buried there. ICMP’s assessment is that the crucial issues for completingthis excavation will be suitable logistical support, safety considerations and sufficient funding.

The ongoing excavation at Tomašica, near Prijedor, began in early September 2013. Previously, excavations were carried out by the PO and MPI in 2004 and 2006 whereit was concluded through ICMP’s DNA-identification process that parts of these bodies were also found at the secondary grave of Jakarina Kosa, from where remains of around 360 persons were exhumed.