30 November 2008: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) hosted a conference in Belgrade, Republic of Serbia from 28th to 30th November, where more than a hundred representatives of associations of families of missing persons, relevant government institutions from the region, as well as parliamentarians and human rights organisations met together for three days to discuss issues pertinent to determining the fate of missing persons from the armed conflicts of the 1990’s in South Eastern Europe.
“There are still over 17,000 persons missing from the various armed conflicts that took place during the 1990’s. This fact constitutes one of the biggest human rights issues facing the region today,” said Ms. Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of ICMP. “Families have come together across national and religious lines once again to demand their rights, and by acting collectively they contribute towards peace and stability,” she added.
Key conclusions from the conference included a call for regional governments to ratify the ‘International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances’; for regional governments to sign agreements on the exchange of information concerning missing persons and to cooperate in the search for them; for prosecutors and courts at all levels in all regional countries to do their utmost to ascertain the whereabouts of mass graves; to consider the movement of human remains from a primary clandestine burial site to a secondary one an indictable crime; to ensure the protection of witnesses at all stages of any investigation.
Following the cessation of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, there were 40,000 persons missing and presumed dead. This number includes the conflicts relevant to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Kosovo as well as the 2001 crisis in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Of the approximately 40,000 persons missing in the region, an estimated 30,000 were missing from the BiH conflict, 5,500 from the Croatia conflicts, 4,400 from the Kosovo conflict and 23 persons from the 2001 crisis in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Today the regional number of missing persons is approximately 17,000.
This conference is the 11th regional conference of its kind, held by ICMP in cooperation with associations of families of missing persons from the region, and their primary aim is to bring together representatives of regional governments and civil society organisations so they can share information relevant to determining the fate of missing persons.
ICMP endeavors 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 also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.