Dutch Government Renews Support to ICMP to Help BiH Find Missing from Srebrenica 1995

The Kingdom of the Netherlands donated 1.5 million euros to continue to support the efforts of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to help Bosnian authorities account for missing persons from Srebrenica.  The donation will make it possible for ICMP to continue assistance in locating and identifying those last seen in July 1995 in and around Srebrenica.

ICMP was created in 1996 at a G-7 summit originally to seek the cooperation of governments in the region of the former Yugoslavia account for missing persons from the conflicts of the 1990’s.  Approximately 140,000 persons were killed during the conflicts, of which 40,000 persons were missing.  Of that number 30,000 were missing from the conflict relevant to Bosnia and Herzegovina, including approximately 8,000 persons missing from the 1995 Fall of Srebrenica, which is the only recognized genocide on European soil since WWII.

In cooperation with the governments in the region and families of the missing, as well as the support of the international community, ICMP has assisted in accounting for over 70 % of the 40,000 persons who went missing and almost 90 % of the approximately 8,000 persons missing from Srebrenica. Such a large number of persons missing from armed conflict and human rights abuses has never been achieved before.

Given that the majority of missing persons have been accounted for, it has become increasingly difficult to find the remaining 12,000 persons missing from the region, including the approximately 1,000 persons still missing from Srebrenica. The last Srebrenica-related clandestine gravesite was excavated in 2009, despite vigorous efforts to find new sites.

Under the Dutch funded project, ICMP will help the BIH authorities enhance effort to locate the remaining gravesites, employing various methodologies such as predictive modeling, which analyzes perpetrator intention regarding the disposal of remains; re-examination of grave patterns to help to trace the movements of victims, analysis of DNA linkages between primary and secondary graves as well as analysis of aerial imagery to determine high priority micro-locations for further assessment and possible excavation.

These activities can increase the scientific accuracy of locating gravesites and at the same time help to end speculation and rumor by ruling out locations where there are no gravesites.

Given the attempts of perpetrators to hide the bodies of persons executed in July 1995 by moving them from primary mass clandestine graves to multiple secondary graves, the efforts to locate and identify the victims of Srebrenica have been one of the most challenging and painstaking undertakings in a post-conflict setting.     ICMP’s decision to use DNA to identify the victims was a breakthrough and has resulted in almost 90 % of the cases.  These individuals would never have been identified without DNA.

Dutch support to ICMP since 1998 has mainly focused on Srebrenica and has been critical to this successful effort.

“The continuing support of the Dutch Government is a major contribution to ensuring that no stone is left unturned in the effort to locate clandestine graves,” said the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, Matthew Holliday. “In the end, this is not a question of the number of identifications; it’s a question of doing everything possible to locate the remaining missing persons.” Dutch ambassador to BiH, Jurriaan Kraak, added: “After 20 years, some families from the Srebrenica region are still waiting to bury their loved ones. That’s why we decided to go the extra mile to support ICMP’s efforts to find the persons still missing from that area”.