Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister visits ICMP

ICMP's Cheryl Katmatzyk briefs Mr. Manaj, Mr. Gjetaj and Dr. Gerxhaliu about the work of ICMP's work on reassociating mortal remains from secondary mass graves.25 March 2009: Kosovo’s authorities and The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) deepened their cooperation and furthered their determination to resolve the issue of missing persons in Kosovo as Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Rame Manaj visited ICMP’s facilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The delegation also included Mr. Prenk Gjetaj, Head of Government Commission on Missing Persons and Dr. Arsim Gerxhaliu, Head of the Office on Missing Persons and Forensics.

The purpose of the visit was to review the technical assistance provided by ICMP, to discuss the current problems in the process of locating, recovering and identifying persons missing from the armed conflict and to seek solutions on a way forward.  ICMP and the delegation also discussed the Law on Missing Persons, strengthening the Kosovo Commission on Missing Persons and ensuring that the families of the missing are fully informed regarding the process. During their visit, the delegation toured ICMP’s DNA laboratory system and met with the Board of Directors of the Missing Persons Institute for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is estimated that approximately 4,400 persons went missing during the armed conflict. Through the use of DNA identity testing, ICMP has assisted in identifying 2,167 mortal remains since 2002, based on bone samples received from the Government of Serbia and from UNMIK (now EULEX). According to OMPF, many missing persons cases were closed in Kosovo prior to the use of DNA testing.

“DNA provides irrefutable evidence of identity, which is important for families, the criminal judicial process and for an accurate accounting of what happened ICMP's Edin Jasaragic explains to Mr Manaj the process of DNA profile extraction in the ICMP Identification Coordination Division, in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herezgovina. during the conflicts,” said Adi Rizvic, Deputy Director of ICMP’s Forensic Sciences Department. “In the case of Kosovo, the process of recovering the mortal remains of persons missing has declined drastically in the last few years, which has decreased the numbers of identifications.  Furthermore, and this is difficult to explain to the families of the missing, ICMP has sufficient blood reference samples to close over 1,600 cases, but these DNA profiles do not match any of the DNA profiles taken from bone samples, including the samples we received from OMPF taken from the Pristina morgue,” he added.

“I am impressed with ICMP’s work. I understand the process much better now and I am thankful to ICMP for all its efforts and assistance. I strongly support the initiative that a thorough review of the recovery process, starting with 1999, should be undertaken as soon as possible. As a first step, it is important to understand how many missing persons cases were closed prior to the use of DNA. The Kosovo Government is looking forward to the intensification of cooperation with ICMP,” said Deputy Prime Minister Manaj, after visiting ICMP’s forensic facilities in Tuzla.

Since 1999, the ICMP has provided assistance to relevant authorities to determine the fate and whereabouts of the missing from the Kosovo Conflict. DNA-assisted technology is an internationally recognised scientific method of human identification, and the ICMP DNA laboratory system has a world-wide reputation.

ICMP has the world’s highest throughput capacity for DNA identity testing. Due to ICMP’s success in using DNA to identify large numbers of missing, in combination with high standards of forensic archaeology and anthropology, ICMP has been invited to provide assistance to: the Philippines (Typhoon Frank), Thailand (the 2004 SE Asian Tsunami), the United States (Hurricane Katrina), Chile, Colombia, Iraq, Kuwait, Cyprus and Norway (WWII), in addition to the work within the Western Balkans.