Report Cites Achievements, Shortcomings of Missing Persons Search in Western Balkans

Aleksandra Letic, the author of the Report, together with the representatives of Regional Coordination of Family Associations of Missing from Former Yugoslavia and ICMP

The fact that more than 70 percent of those who went missing during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia have been accounted for shows willingness and determination on the part of countries in the Western Balkans to resolve the missing persons issue, a report issued today concludes.

The Regional Assessment Report on the Process of Resolving the Missing Persons Issue is published by the Regional Coordination of Family Associations of Missing from Former Yugoslavia, which comprises family associations from countries in the region.

“The Report provides a comprehensive and objective overview of results in the search for missing persons in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Kosovo,” said Ljiljana Alvir, President of the Regional Coordination Steering Board. She said the report would serve as “a platform for advocacy and lobbying activities of both the Regional Coordination and family associations of the missing.”

Aleksandra Letic, the author of the Report, noted that relevant laws have been passed in most states in the region and Transitional Justice strategies have been initiated. “However, politicization of processes and a lack of unequivocal political will to reveal all available information about serious violations of human rights from the past continues to hinder the search for missing persons,” she added.

Active civil society engagement puts pressure on governments and at the same time encourages them to take constructive action, said Klaudia Kuljuh of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program. “The report reflects on the achievements of civil society and the ways to overcome potential difficulties,” she said, “so it should be viewed as the start of a process of discussion and future action.”

The regional Coordination also announced today its plans to monitor implementation of ICMP’s Declaration On The Role Of The State In Addressing The Issue Of Persons Missing As A Consequence Of Armed Conflict And Human Rights Abuses, signed by the presidents of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Mostar this summer. The Regional Coordination has developed a set of indicators that will help it and the signatories assess progress made in implementation. ICMP is supporting this project with a grant in 2015 and 2016 as part of the broader effort to oblige states to take full responsibility for accounting for missing persons. This is based on the premise that civil society has a key role in holding states accountable.

The Regional Coordination registered as a non-partisan, non-governmental, not-for-profit, human rights organization with the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2011. Its mission is to advocate and lobby relevant institutions to expedite the resolution of missing persons cases. The RC raises public awareness about the issue of missing persons, as well as advocating the rights of victims and families of the missing. ICMP has guided and supported the growth of the RC from its beginnings as an informal civil society initiative since 2005.