Much Work Still to Be Done To Account for the Missing in the Western Balkans

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will endeavor to work in the Western Balkans as long as families of the missing and relevant institutions continue to request its assistance, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said in an interview published today in BH Dani. She pointed out that while more than 70 percent of the 40,000 people who went missing during the conflict have been accounted for, the fate of around 12,000 persons is still unknown, “which means that there is a lot of work still to be done.”

In December last year five governments signed an Agreement on ICMP, granting it a new status as an intergovernmental organization with a global mandate. The agreement stipulated that the organization would move its headquarters to The Hague, and this has now been done. However, a number of functions will remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina for several years. In addition, as long as funding can be secured, ICMP will support institutions in the region that are responsible for accounting for the missing, Bomberger said.

In the region, the authorities can continue to rely on ICMP’s standing capacity to resolve complex missing persons cases, Bomberger said. Since the summer of this year, the influx of refugees moving through the Balkans to northern Europe has created a new missing persons crisis. The precise number of those who have died or who have gone missing during the migration is not known but is likely to be high.

She said ICMP would continue to help the domestic authorities document crimes, including the excavation of mass or clandestine graves, and the provision of expert witness testimony in war crimes cases at the ICTY and in local courts.

And ICMP would work with the authorities to ensure that the Central Records of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina are verified and that the Fund for the Families of the Missing is established, she said.

She added that ICMP would seek to maintain existing programs or launch new ones in other countries; it would help governments complete the regional database of missing persons so that they can close cases more efficiently; and that it would continue to support regional cooperation among associations of families of missing persons, including joint forms of memorialization, as well as helping to train prosecutors, judges and forensic experts.

The full text of Kathryne Bomberger’s interview with BH Dani can be accessed here.