ICMP Meets with Families of Missing Persons from the Bosnian Conflict to Coordinate Future Activities

Sarajevo, 18 January 2018: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) hosted a meeting in Sarajevo today with families of the missing from Bosnia and Herzegovina to present ICMP’s continuing assistance to BIH and its cooperation with families and government authorities here to locate and identify the estimated 7,000 persons who are still missing from the 1992-95 conflict.

To date over 70 % of the 30,000 persons missing from the conflicts of the 1990’s have been accounted for. Despite consistent efforts of the BiH authorities to locate the remaining missing persons, the number of new sites found has decreased since 2009. ICMP will continue to help the authorities in BIH address the interrelated issues of unidentified remains held in BiH mortuaries and misidentifications that occurred before ICMP introduced DNA testing in 2001. ICMP will maintain Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology activities and will continue to provide BIH with access to DNA testing and matching.

ICMP will also work closely with the families of the missing to ensure the BIH authorities amend the Agreement on Assuming the Role of Co-Founders of the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that the authorities assume full ownership of the MPI, and to ensure BiH accedes to the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP Agreement), which will provide BIH with a unique opportunity to continue its important partnership with ICMP and allow BiH to showcase the unprecedented progress it has made in accounting for the missing from the conflicts of the 1990s.

Family representatives at the meeting unanimously agreed that ICMP’s work must continue.

“Same as others, I disagree with the proposal to hand over genetic data of the families to BiH authorities. We trust ICMP and I believe that ICMP will continue to cooperate with BiH authorities,” said Nura Begović, from the Association Women of Srebrenica, who participated in the meeting.

“My wish is that ICMP continues to assist the process of searching for missing persons in BiH, and it is good that the DNA analysis will continue unimpeded” said Smilja Mitrovic, President of the Association of Families of Missing Soldiers and Civilians of Semberija and Majevica, who also took part.

ICMP’s Headquarters moved to The Hague in the autumn of 2015, and new premises were formally opened there at the end of October this year. As part of the final phase of the transition, ICMP has relocated its Global DNA Laboratory System from Bosnia and Herzegovina to The Hague. This reflects the December 2014 Agreement on the Status and Functions of the ICMP which stipulates that ICMP should relocate its Headquarters to The Hague in order to carry out its new international mandate.

Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, stressed that ICMP assistance will continue from its new headquarters in The Netherlands and that it will continue to employ the most rigorous of data protection regimes to ensure the security or the privacy of genetic and personal information provided by families of the missing when conducting DNA identity testing.

“As stipulated when families provided information and as guaranteed by ICMP’s privacy policies and by its immunities under international law, information provided by families can only be given to third parties with the explicit permission of each individual who has provided this information,” he said.

ICMP works with governments, civil society organizations, justice institutions, international organizations and others throughout the world to address the issue of people who have gone missing as a result of armed conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime and other causes. As the only international organization that is exclusively dedicated to this issue, ICMP is actively engaged in developing institutions and civil society capacity, promoting legislation, fostering social and political advocacy, and developing and providing technical expertise to locate and identify the missing.