ICMP Briefs Bosnia’s War Crimes Prosecutors

17 December 2010: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) provided a special, in-depth presentation of its work to a high-level delegation of over 50 national and International Prosecutors and staff members from the Prosecutors’ Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina today.

Given that the state-level Prosecutor’s office is taking over the jurisdiction from local authorities in the process of exhumations next year, the objective of the ICMP seminar was to provide staff from the War Crimes Department with an overview of the technical assistance that ICMP provides to governments in locating, recovering and identifying the mortal remains of persons missing from armed conflict, crimes against humanity and other violations of human rights, as well as an overview of the work of the Missing Persons Institute (MPI). Given that ICMP assistance is also relevant to criminal prosecutions, it is also important that prosecutors understand the scope of ICMP’s work and the type of assistance it can provide to justice sector institutions.

“Addressing the issue of missing persons from armed conflict and crimes against humanity is a rule of law process. Families of the missing not only want to resolve the fate of a missing relative, but they want justice,” said ICMP’s Director-General Ms. Kathryne Bomberger. “The decision of the State Prosecutor, which will go into force next year, is a very positive step forward and it will enhance State- level cooperation between the prosecutor’s office and MPI, thus ensuring sustainability for addressing this important issue in BiH,” she added.

“Seminars like this are contributing to better and more efficient cooperation between the staff of the state-level Prosecutor’s office, MPI, ICMP and other institutions that are taking part in the process of exhumations, which are not only important for criminal investigations and providing evidence in court, but they also have an important human role,” stressed The Chief State Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Milorad Barasin and added “this will contribute to rule of law procedures and will end the political manipulation of this process.”

The current Chairman of the MPI, Mr. Amor Masovic, added, “The decision of the State Prosecutor will not only expedite the search for missing persons, but it will provide clarity in matters dealing with custody and storage of mortal remains recovered.” “We look forward to working together with the new teams,” he added.

The team of prosecutors received briefings on a variety of topics, from the role of ICMP at excavation sites, to assistance provided in the complex process of re-associating disarticulated mortal remains found in secondary mass graves, to the use of a DNA-led process of identifications that incorporates an integrated scientific approach. In addition, they learned about the role the Missing Persons Institute in BiH, as well as the relevance of the Law on Missing Persons for BiH.

ICMP seeks to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other hostilities or violations of human rights and to assist them in doing so. ICMP pioneered the use of DNA technology to identify large numbers of missing persons, maintains the highest throughput capability for DNA-based identifications in the world and as such it has become a centre for global assistance, not only in cases of human rights violations, but also in disaster situations. It has also developed a unique software platform called the fDMS to manage the complex data, which it makes available to governments.