Families to Mark International Day of the Disappeared

29 August 2006: On the occasion of August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) would like to remind States of their obligation to address the problem of missing persons resulting from armed conflicts. Repairing the wounds of the past through truth and justice is a precondition for a peaceful future, not only for the individual relatives and victims, but also for the whole society.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared this year, representatives of the more than 120 associations of families of missing persons from former Yugoslavia have organized public events throughout the region to demand renewed efforts at addressing the missing persons issue. Bosniak, Croat, and Serb families of missing persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) drafted a joint letter to urge the authorities to fully implement the Law on Missing Persons passed in 2004.Of the estimated 40,000 missing persons at the end of the conflicts, approximately 20,000 persons from the former Yugoslavia are still unaccounted for. Despite important progress, this is an unfinished issue in the Balkans and in many other regions of the world.

ICMP’s interdisciplinary work focuses on political, scientific and civil society aspects of addressing this issue. ICMP seeks to ensure that governmental mechanisms for tracing for missing persons, such as the Missing Persons Institute for Bosnia and Herzegovina, are sustainable and can address the issue of missing persons on a political, technical and operational level.

Connected to its DNA identification efforts, ICMP has collected 81,499 blood samples for 27,420 missing individuals across the former Yugoslavia to date. Comparing these DNA profiles to the profiles from bone samples submitted to ICMP by responsible authorities, 16,087 DNA match reports have been generated for 11,100 missing individuals. Thousands of families have received information about the fate of their missing relatives, and have finally been able to bury them with dignity.

The problem of enforced disappearances is a global concern. ICMP welcomes the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council during its June 2006 session of the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” and its recommendation to the General Assembly for its adoption. The Convention affirms the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance, and the fate of the disappeared person, and the right to freedom to seek, receive and impart information to this end.

Associations of Families of Missing Persons from the former Yugoslavia express their solidarity with The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), the African Network Against Involuntary Disappearances, and the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM). The tradition of marking August 30th was initiated by FEDEFAM in the early in 1980s and has since been adopted by groups around the world.