Families of the Missing from the Western Balkans Strengthen Cooperation through New Regional Coordination Network

Sarajevo, 17 March 2022 – On Tuesday in Sarajevo, family associations of missing persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing the Regional Coordination Network.

“This MoU reaffirms the commitment of the family associations to working together to secure truth, justice and reparations through a mechanism in which all families and all associations have equal rights and duties,” said Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

Director-General Bomberger described the agreement as “historic” and she said “Ensuring coordination of family associations from all across the region and enabling them to hold governments accountable to conduct credible investigations is key to ensuring that the remaining missing persons are accounted for.”

ICMP has spearheaded the regional effort that has made it possible to account for more than 70 percent of those who went missing during the conflicts of the 1990s, but around 11,000 people still have to be accounted for.

Associations of families of missing persons from the former Yugoslavia gathered in the Regional Coordination in 2005 to lobby jointly for the resolution of missing persons issues.

“Throughout the years, families have contributed to the enactment of laws and the signing of agreements, and they have worked to end silence and manipulation,” said Semina Alekić, President of the Coordination of Associations of Families of the Missing from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ms Alekić stressed that “without a solution to the problem of the missing, there cannot be real peace.” She emphasized that associations that are not yet part of the new network are being invited to join.

“The United Kingdom believes that better regional cooperation is crucial to delivering progress,” said British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Matt Field. “It will help promote peace, stability and regional reconciliation. Involving the families in the of effort to resolve the fate of those who are still missing is essential.  The signing of the MoU is a major step in the right direction.”

The MoU is one element in an ICMP project to strengthen regional cooperation on resolving missing person cases, supported by the UK Government.

About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.