Families Consulted on Legal Changes in Missing Persons Issue

13 December 2004: At a conference organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Friday, December 10, 2004, representatives of the Council of Ministers told family members of missing persons from across Bosnia-Herzegovina that their opinions would be taken into consideration in the establishment of a state-level Missing Persons Institute. The one-day conference, held in Sarajevo on Human Rights day to underline that resolution of the fate of missing persons is a human rights issue, was organized by ICMP to inform and consult with family members about implications of the adoption of the Law on Missing Persons and progress on the Missing Persons Institute (MPI).Representatives of the Families’ Associations attending the conference reiterated their desire to be active participants in resolving the fate of their loved ones and in the work of the Missing Persons Institute, but raised questions about regional representation within BiH of the Missing Persons Institute. They said they hoped for full implementation of the Law on Missing Persons, but were concerned about Government accountability on the missing persons issue and about how support for families’ associations and their members would be provided under the Law on Missing Persons. However, all participants agreed that implementation of the Law should start as soon as possible.

ICMP officials said there had been a great deal of progress, particularly by the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in efforts to address the missing persons issue on the state-level, with equal treatment for all cases. Negotiations by a working group on the drafting of a Protocol on the state-level MPI are in their final stages, delegates at the conference were told. The Protocol will cover the entry of the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a co-founder of the Missing Persons Institute.

“ICMP has been working with the Government for a very long time, and we have established a relationship of close cooperation over the years,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff. “Exhumations are done in a manner that is increasingly productive, with higher numbers of remains exhumed year after year. Increased political will and financial support from governments is now being provided, which is the first step towards a sustainable process.”

Maksim Stanisic, Head of Department in the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, said the creation of MPI was a significant step forward. “MPI will provide a framework for the joint work of different institutions that were separated until now, and will enable productive work in the process of searching for missing persons,” he said.

It was agreed at the conference that copies of the draft protocol on the Missing Persons Institute would be distributed to Family Associations and that their written comments would be taken into consideration by the official MPI Protocol Working Group before submission of the final version of the Protocol to Parliament.