31 October 2019: Today in Tirana the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) announced that it has submitted the first two DNA Match Reports to the Albanian authorities. These Match Reports will enable the authorities to make conclusive, scientific identifications of two individuals who went missing during the period of Communist rule.
Speaking at a press conference in the EU House in Tirana, Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program said the Match Reports submitted to the Albanian authorities “demonstrate that missing persons can be accurately identified even decades after the disappearances.” He added that “the first results of ICMP’s EU-funded project mark a crucial turning point in addressing the issue of persons missing from the Communist era in Albania.”
Albania’s Deputy Interior Minister, Rovena Voda, stressed that locating and identifying those who went missing “is a legal obligation of our country, in accordance with the constitution, laws and international conventions” and she added that “finding and identifying as many of these individuals as possible is also a moral obligation of our society because only in this way can we complete the rehabilitation of victims, restore their dignity, and bring closure to the families. Today, we have the first concrete results of joint work by the Albanian institutions and ICMP experts. In numbers it may seem a modest result, but it is a very tangible result that paves the way for an inclusive process nationwide.”
Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Albania Monika Bylaite agreed that in view of the large number of people who went missing during the Communist era, two identifications may seem modest, “but these two identifications, in addition to finally bringing peace and closure to at least two families – which in itself would have been worth all the effort – also bring much more than that: they bring hope to all the other families that are still holding their breath that they will finally after all those years be able to bury their sons, their sisters, their fathers.”
As a result of systematic human rights violations during the Communist era in Albania, thousands of individuals are still classified as missing. Official data on missing persons and on judicially or extra-judicially imprisoned or executed victims between 1945 and 1991 is incomplete, but some estimate that as many as 5,000 people were executed. Their bodies were never returned to their families for burial. Instead they were interred in mass unmarked graves near detention centers, prisons and labor camps.
With the financial support of the EU, ICMP is implementing a pilot project to deliver DNA-led identifications from two pilot sites in Albania (Dajti and Balsh) to help the authorities meet their human rights obligations to families of the missing. The project will strengthen the capacity of Albanian institutions to account for persons missing from the Communist era.
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.