ICMP and Government of Albania sign Cooperation Agreement

Sarajevo, 18 July 2018: Albania’s Deputy Minister of Interior Rovena Voda and the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program Matthew Holliday signed a Cooperation Agreement in Tirana today.

The agreement defines the co-operation between the Republic of Albania and ICMP to locate persons who went missing during the 1944-1991 period, as well as in other circumstances for which the Council of Ministers may seek ICMP’s assistance. It also defines ICMP’s legal status and functions in Albania in accordance with the Vienna Convention.

“The agreement reflects a desire on the part of the Albanian authorities to protect the rights of family members of persons who went missing, in particular by ensuring that the whereabouts of the missing and the circumstances of their disappearance are investigated effectively,” Matthew Holliday said today.

He added that it also represents “a demonstration of political will on the part of the Republic of Albania to address the issue of missing persons from the communist era in an effective and comprehensive way, which is a key component of overcoming the legacy of Albania’s totalitarian past.”

According to Minister Voda, “the Albanian Government will make every effort to fulfil its obligations deriving from this agreement. We are aware that this is a long and complex process, which requires a lot of engagement and the work of the parties involved in resolving this issue. However, this process may not guarantee the identification of each person, but we express our commitment to take all the measures to bring justice to the victims and to be as effective as possible.”

EU Ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin said, “Families have the right to ensure proper burial to their lost ones, and find the possibility to pay respect to those who have sacrificed their lives so that Albania would become a true democracy.”

The agreement paves the way for ICMP to begin providing assistance to the Albanian authorities, including:
– Helping the authorities to fulfil their human rights obligations through an impartial, non-discriminatory process to account for the missing;
– locating and excavating clandestine gravesites through the provision of forensic archaeology and anthropology expertise;
– collecting genetic reference samples from families of the missing;
– conducting DNA testing of post-mortem samples received from the competent institution of Albania;
– seeking to match DNA profiles obtained from post-mortem samples with DNA samples provided by family members of the missing; and
– submitting DNA match reports to the Albanian Ministry of Interior in order to facilitate the legal identification of missing persons and enable families to give their relatives a dignified burial.

Since July 2017, with the financial support of the EU, ICMP has been implementing a pilot project in Albania, which seeks to obtain results in terms of DNA-led identifications from two pilot sites (Dajti and Balsh) to help the Albanian authorities fulfil their human rights obligations to the families of the missing and to strengthen the capacity of Albanian institutions to account for persons missing from the Communist era.

ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with headquarters in The Hague. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying 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. ICMP has spearheaded an effort of more than 20 years to account for the missing from the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.