ICMP Assistance to Serbia

28 November 2006: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) assisted in the excavation of 62 potential victims from the conflicts in the regions of the former Yugoslavia. The bodies were originally found in the Danube and Sava rivers after floating down from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia during the conflicts in early nineties and were buried as unidentified in Belgrade cemeteries.The exhumations, which took place at the Nova Bežanija and Orlovača cemeteries in Belgrade, started on 21 November under the supervision of the Serbian government’s Commission on Missing Persons, with the additional presence of representatives from the government commissions on missing persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia.

ICMP will take bone samples from the exhumed mortal remains in an effort to assist in the identification by using DNA. Reserve specimens were also taken by Serbian and Croatian authorities. ICMP introduced DNA as primary tool in identification of missing persons in this region, demonstrating success on a massive scale.

ICMP will extract DNA profiles from the bone samples and enter them into the ICMP DNA profile computer database. Using its matching software ICMP will compare them with existing DNA profiles previously extracted from blood samples given by surviving family members. If there is a DNA match, ICMP will submit a DNA match report to the court-appointed forensic expert, who will make the final identification.

To date ICMP has assisted the Government of Serbia in recovering and identifying approximately 1,100 mortal remains found on the territory of Serbia. Of these, around 800 were persons missing from the 1999 Kosovo conflict and approximately 300 missing from the earlier conflicts with Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. ICMP has collected over 82,000 blood samples and has assisted in making over 10,000 identifications of persons missing from the conflicts in the Western Balkans using DNA.