Podrinje Identification Project: Successful Partnership between ICMP, MPI and Tuzla

27 April 2010: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has further strengthened the capacity of the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia-Herzegovina (MPI) as MPI and Tuzla authorities assume full responsibility today for the ongoing operations of the Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) forensic facility after a meeting with the Mayor of Tuzla, Mr. Jasmin Imamovic.Located in Tuzla, since 1999 the PIP forensic facility has conducted human remains analysis and DNA sampling, and has coordinated the identification process for cases of the estimated 8,100 persons missing from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica. Using DNA identification techniques, 6,435 positive DNA based identifications have been made to date of victims of Srebrenica. The project was established by ICMP, local BiH and Tuzla Canton authorities, including the Ministry of Interior and the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office with the specific aim of providing identifications of human remains of these victims.

“As Mayor of Tuzla, I extend my most heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the ICMP for the work they have done here at the Podrinje Identification Project since 1999. What they have and are doing is something of which Bosnia and Bosnians should be proud, and stands as a model of professional excellence for the world of forensic science,” said Mr. Jasmin Imamovic. “We look forward to continuing that cooperation with MPI,” he added.

“The cooperation between the Missing Persons Institute and ICMP has enabled a staggering number of missing persons to be recovered and identified in Bosnia-Herzegovina to date, and as MPI assumes operational control of the Podrinje Identification Project we will be looking at further successful identifications to be made bringing long-awaited solace to families of the victims and simultaneously strengthening rule of law and the judicial process in this country,” said Amor Mašović, member of the BiH Missing Persons Institute’s Board of Directors.

“Described by forensic science experts as “the world’s greatest forensics puzzle,” one of the tremendous challenges faced by PIP is the fact that many graves associated with Srebrenica were secondary graves, where bodies were moved months after the initial deposition in primary mass graves. This attempt to conceal the location of the mortal remains gave rise to extensive fragmentation of the bodies, and commingling of skeletal elements from different individuals,” said ICMP’s Director-General Ms. Kathryne Bomberger. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the dedicated staff in MPI and Tuzla for contributing to the identification of 6,435 individuals who would never have been identified without their assistance and the use of DNA and to remind them that approximately 1,600 persons from Srebrenica and 10,000 persons in total from BiH must still be accounted for,” she added.

Co-founded in August 2005 by the Council of Ministers and ICMP, the purpose of the MPI is to provide BiH with a sustainable national mechanism to address the issue of persons missing as a result of the conflict in BiH, regardless of their ethnic, religious or national origin.