30 January 2007: During a visit to the facilities of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Tuzla today, the Head of European Commission Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Dimitris Kourkoulas, stressed that families had a right to know the truth about their missing loved ones.Ambassador Kourkoulas was impressed with the ICMP’s contribution to the process of finding and identifying missing persons in the former Yugoslavia. Accompanied by ICMP Director- General, Kathryne Bomberger, he visited ICMP’s facility where mortal remains from Srebernica are identified and the center where all blood samples collected by ICMP from relatives of the missing and all bone samples received from government authorities are archived and sent to ICMP labs for testing. Once the DNA is extracted in the labs, the DNA profiles are entered into ICMP’s database and matched. To date ICMP’s efforts have resulted in DNA-assisted identifications of almost 11,000 individuals missing from the conflicts in the regions of the former Yugoslavia. These identifications have brought long-awaited answers to distraught communities.
“Finding persons missing from the conflicts is crucial for bringing closure to the families and providing evidence to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Ambassador Kourkoulas. “ICMP’s work is an important contribution to the process of peace and stability in the region.”
Identification of victims missing from armed conflict and enforced disappearance is an extremely difficult process not only because of the time that has elapsed, but because in many cases the perpetrators removed mortal remains from one location and hid them in another in an attempt to conceal evidence of war crimes, thus leaving a trail of disarticulated skeletal remains. In one case related to Srebrenica, ICMP has data that shows that one body was moved to four different clandestine grave sites.
The introduction of DNA by the ICMP as the basis for identifying large numbers of missing persons from armed conflict has enabled accurate identifications of persons that would never otherwise have been identified.
“DNA provides a level of precision regarding who was killed and the number of persons that were killed and recovered from mass graves that would not have been imaginable a decade ago. Because it provides irrefutable evidence of identity it is a very powerful political tool in the context of recent conflicts in Balkans,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP General Director.
In order to successfully complete the DNA analysis ICMP needs blood samples and bone samples. Ambassador Kourkoulas and ICMP’s General Director Bomberger called on all family members who have missing relatives from the conflict to come forward and contact ICMP in order to help them find the truth about their missing loved ones. In addition, they called upon the governments in the region to come forward with information that would account for the estimated 17,000 persons still missing from the various conflicts in the Western Balkans.