ICMP and Missing Persons Group Boost Regional Cooperation to Account for the Remaining Missing Persons

Podgorica, 29 September 2021 – At a meeting in Podgorica this week the Missing Persons Group (MPG) agreed on a range of measures to reinvigorate regional cooperation to account for persons missing as a result of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

“Governments in the Western Balkans have managed to account for over 70 percent of the around 40,000 persons reported missing after the conflicts in the 1990s. The MPG, which gathers senior representatives of regional governments that are responsible for addressing missing persons issues, is key to accounting for more than 11,000 that remain missing,” said Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program. “Today the MPG agreed on measures that will increase the sustainability of the MPG, boost cooperation in the process of accounting for the missing as well as strengthen the engagement of families of the missing in its work”.

Out of the more than 11,000 remaining missing persons more than 7,000 are missing from the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 1,900 are still missing from the Croatia conflict while 1,600 persons are still missing from the Kosovo conflict.

All the MPG members will continue to work closely with ICMP and other MPG members to account for as many remaining missing – this includes action to resolve “NN” (no name, or unidentified) cases in mortuaries across the region; procedures for sharing data on the missing and potential locations of clandestine gravesites; joint participation at excavations of mutual interest and creating better legislation to secure the rights of all families regardless of ethnic, religious, national background.

“The work of the Missing Persons Group, which continues with the support of the UK Government and ICMP, has led to improved regional cooperation. Even with the number of challenges, the Missing Persons Group has become the basis for the development of multilateral and bilateral relations. I expect that the continuation of work through this platform will contribute to the process of accounting for missing persons to the satisfaction of the families of missing persons, government institutions and non-governmental organizations,” Dragan Djukanovic, President of the Commission on Missing Persons of Montenegro said.

The MPG plays a role in supervising operations under a Framework Plan signed in November 2018 at ICMP’s Headquarters in The Hague. The second phase of the implementation of the Framework Plan is supported by the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Framework Plan stems from a Declaration signed in London in July 2018 in which the Prime Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland reiterated their commitment to support efforts to account for persons still missing as a result of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

ICMP supports regional cooperation by working to build political frameworks for intergovernmental coordination and to build capacities of the domestic authorities responsible for addressing the issue of missing persons. ICMP also works with family associations of the missing across the region to help them strengthen their advocacy capacity at a regional level. In addition, ICMP supports cross-border, joint excavations and provides access to its DNA testing and matching facilities. The scientific accuracy of identifications, based on DNA kinship matching has been critical to the provision of evidence and securing the rights of families to truth, justice and reparations.

About ICMP

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.