International Day of the Disappeared – Families of the Missing Deserve Concrete Action

Sarajevo, 30 August: Today, International Day of the Disappeared, families of the missing all around the world are calling for action to account for those who have disappeared as a consequence of conflict, natural disasters, crime, irregular migration and other causes.

In Sarajevo this morning, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in cooperation with the BIH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, installed a temporary artwork representing missing persons in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina to highlight the issue and to call for the implementation of effective strategies to address it.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than 70 percent of those who were missing at the end of the conflict have been accounted for, the highest rate of missing persons case resolution in any post-conflict society anywhere in the world – but many people are still missing.

“The families of at least 7,000 missing persons continue to endure the agony of not knowing the fate of their relatives, more than two decades after the end of conflict,” said Matthew Holliday, Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program. “Accounting for the missing is a moral obligation, but it is also – and this is crucial – a legal obligation; fulfilling this obligation advances and strengthens the rule of law. State responsibility and state action are therefore essential.”

BIH Minister for Human Rights and Refugees Semiha Borovac commended ICMP for all its support in accounting for the missing, and she urged “everyone who has information about missing persons to share this with the authorities”.

UK Ambassador Matt Field said it was not the case that there is little chance of locating and identifying missing persons because so much time has passed. It can be done – however, he stressed that “further progress on this issue requires political will, strong regional cooperation, and courage and openness to the public. Politicians and leaders of all communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must show open support for the process of accounting for the missing.”

US Ambassador Eric Nelson said the issue of missing persons is “a global problem” and Bosnia and Herzegovina “can be proud that three quarters of the missing have been accounted for. However, today we are here to declare solidarity with families of the thousands who are still missing.”

Khaldoun Sinno, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to BIH, called for full implementation of the Law on Missing Persons, noting that, “The Fund for Families of the Missing must be established, and this is a duty for all levels of administration.”

Deputy Swedish Ambassador Torgny Svenungsson drew attention to the pain experienced by families of the missing. “Regardless of the circumstances of disappearances, families and friends will always look for answers, and we need to continue to work together in order to account for those who are still missing.”

Marko Jurisic, Member of the Board of Directors of the Missing Persons Institute said Bosnia and Herzegovina is a leader in accounting for the missing in the region and worldwide. “However, for all of those still looking for their loved ones, this bares almost no meaning. We in Bosnia and Herzegovina need to stop politicizing the process and invest all our efforts to account for all of them.”

Amir Kulaglic, Member of the Advisory Board of the Missing Persons Institute, called on all families of the missing to work together. “Only if we work together can we successfully resolve the fate of all missing persons, as well as bringing to justice those responsible for their disappearance,” Kulaglic said.

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.