Pristina, Kosovo: 6 September 2021 – Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti met today in Pristina to discuss ways of expediting the process of accounting for more than 1,600 persons still missing from the Kosovo conflict.
Measures discussed include enhancing regional cooperation through the Missing Persons Group, and undertaking a thorough review of the technical process conducted in Kosovo over the last two decades.
Prime Minister Kurti thanked Mrs. Bomberger and her colleagues for their maximum commitment to the issue of enforced disappearances, an issue that is essential for the Government of the Republic of Kosovo and requires immediate address. He stressed the commitment of the Government to regulate the issue of pensions for the families of the missing.
Ms Bomberger noted that while the issue of missing persons had been a reserve power of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) until 2018, “the Kosovo Commission on Missing Persons is now uniquely placed to gather data and coordinate a review of all exhumations and examinations conducted in 1999-2000, as well as a review of documentation on the 2,000 missing persons cases that were closed without ICMP’s DNA testing support, and a review of the 300-400 cases of unidentified human remains in Pristina Mortuary.” More information on these topics can be found in ICMP’s Kosovo Conflict Stocktaking Report and Infographic.
“This review will inform future actions to resolve more missing persons cases, and enable the Kosovo Commission on Missing Persons to carry out its domestic mandate, to enhance its work with Serbia and the other regional governments, and most importantly to find the missing and provide accurate information to the families,” Ms. Bomberger added.
“More than 70 percent of the missing from the regional conflicts have been accounted for and efforts must be made to enhance cooperation among regional governments to find the remaining 11,000, including more than 1,600 persons missing from the Kosovo conflict,” she said.
The Missing Persons Group was established in the context of the Western Balkans Berlin Process and operates under a Framework Plan signed in November 2018 at ICMP’s Headquarters in The Hague. The Framework Plan stems from a Joint Declaration on Missing signed in London in July 2018, in which the Prime Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland reiterated their commitment to supporting efforts to account for those still missing as a result of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, pointed out that the task of locating and exhuming missing persons from the Kosovo conflict was initially undertaken by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which operated in Kosovo from 1999 to 2000. Subsequently, responsibility passed to the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and after 2008 to EULEX. “Agreement with ICMP on the use of DNA testing was reached with UNMIK in 2003, but by then more than 2,000 missing persons cases had been closed on the basis of presumptive identification methods,” he said.
ICMP helped Kosovo create the Government Commission on Missing Persons in 2006 and it continues to help the authorities in Kosovo and Serbia fulfil their obligations under local and international law to find all missing persons regardless of their religious or national origin and to secure the rights of all surviving families of the missing to justice, truth and reparations.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental 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 tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.