ICMP and Kosovo Institutions Enhance Cooperation to Support Missing Persons Process

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The Hague, 16 October: A delegation of representatives of Kosovo institutions that work on the issue of missing persons has visited the Headquarters of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in The Hague to discuss measures to enhance the process of accounting for missing persons from the Kosovo conflict.

The meeting resulted in four major outcomes:

  • Kosovo institutions will include the ICMP’s Site Locator on relevant institutions’ websites in order to increase the provision of information on locations of clandestine gravesites anonymously, or signed;
  • The delegation positively assessed the benefits of using ICMP’s cloud-based, Identification Database Management System (iDMS) which collects, stores, protects and shares data on missing persons securely. The delegation agreed to bring a decision on signing an End User License Agreement in the forthcoming period;
  • The delegation embraced measures for ensuring greater domestic ownership of the process to enhance the sustainability of DNA-based identifications;
  • The delegation reiterated Kosovo’s commitment to publicly launching the Database of active missing persons cases from conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

During the two-day meeting, ICMP briefed the delegation on institutional structures that support an effective missing persons process, the key role of families of the missing and civil society organizations, and the critical function of effective and secure Data Systems and Data Coordination. Discussions also covered ways in which domestic institutions can assume greater ownership of the process. The delegation also reviewed ICMP’s human identification DNA testing and matching capability.

Over the last two decades, by supporting cooperation among governments in the region, ICMP has helped countries of the former Yugoslavia to account for 28,000 of the 40,000 people who were missing at the end of the conflict, an achievement that has not been equaled anywhere in the world. In June 2018 heads of governments from the Western Balkans meeting in London signed a Joint Declaration renewing their commitment to cooperate in the effort to account for those who are still missing. The Joint Declaration was followed by the signing of a Framework Plan last November, at ICMP headquarters in The Hague, by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, who formally undertook to work together as the regional Missing Persons Group (MPG).

“ICMP has worked to promote the capacity of the Kosovo Government Commission on Missing Persons since it helped the Kosovo authorities to establish the Commission in 2006,” said Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program. “In addition, ICMP has provided support to Kosovo through UNMIK and then EULEX in providing DNA-based identifications. To date ICMP collected          14,866 reference samples from families of the missing, received 7,327 post mortem samples from Serbia, UNMIK and EULEX and has submitted 5,206 DNA reports which resulted in the identification of 2,564 missing persons from the Kosovo conflict,” said Matthew Holliday. He added, “In order to assist the process of accounting for persons missing from the Kosovo conflict, ICMP stands ready to provide support and technical assistance.”

Mr. Jahja Luka, the Government of Kosovo File Holder on Missing Persons, said, “Kosovo is working closely with ICMP to increase the technical capacities of the relevant institutions. Kosovo is committed to implementing the London Summit Declaration and the Joint Framework Plan signed in The Hague by Domestic Institutions from the Region.”

The visit of the Kosovo delegation was part of a regional missing persons project funded in part by the EU and the UK.

Detailed report on the efforts to account for missing persons from the Kosovo conflict and its aftermath can be found in ICMP’s Stocktaking Report available at: http://bit.ly/2Y0PFHx

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ICMP is a treaty-based international 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.