23 July 2009: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia-Herzegovina (MPI) hosted a visit to an exhumation site by a high-level delegation of EU Ambassadors and diplomatic staff led by H.E Bosse Hedberg, Sweden’s Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sweden currently holds the presidency of the European Union and is a major donor to ICMP.
MPI, with assistance from the ICMP, is currently exhuming a grave site at Koricanske Stijene, on Vlasic Mountain, north of Travnik. The site, located at the bottom of a steep cliff, reportedly contains remains of some of the more than 200 men from the Prijedor region who were allegedly executed in the area on 21st August 1992.
In July 2009 the Missing Persons Institute of BiH began investigating the site and initial reports say that human remains have been discovered. The exhumation site itself presents substantial logistical problems, as it is inaccessible by foot and can only be reached by ropes and ladders.
“Below us at the bottom of this cliff lies the physical evidence of the terrible legacy of the war in Bosnia,” said His Excellency Bosse Hedberg, Swedish Ambassador to BiH. “The fate of missing persons is one of the key human rights issues facing this country today, and on behalf of the EU diplomatic representatives gathered here, I would like to express our admiration and full support for the efforts being made by the Missing Persons Institute and by ICMP in dealing with this problem.”
“Without the very important support of Sweden and other EU donor countries represented here, ICMP would simply not be able to carry out its most vital operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This visit also emphasizes to the families of missing persons in this country that the International Community remains determined to assist them in their search for answers” said Adam Boys, ICMP’s Chief Operating Officer.
A total of 5,134 persons were reported missing from the Krajina area following the cessation of the 1992-1995 conflict, of which number 1,475 cases were closed prior to the use of DNA using traditional means, while 1,547 accurate identifications have been made through ICMP’s DNA-assisted identification program. The ICMP maintains the Krajina Identification Project forensic facility in Sanski Most, which handles cases of missing persons from the Krajina area.
The ICMP has made to date a total of 12,542 accurate, DNA-led identifications of individuals from all of Bosnia-Herzegovina since ICMP’s DNA system went online in 2001. In the case of BiH, ICMP has DNA profiles from more than 69,106 blood samples collected from relatives and 25,133 bone samples from human remains on its database. The introduction of DNA by the ICMP as the basis for identifying large numbers of missing persons from the 1990’s conflicts in the Western Balkans enabled accurate identifications of persons that would never otherwise have been identified. The first DNA match, for a 15 year-old boy from Srebrenica, was made on November 16, 2001.