Representatives of Families of the Missing from the Western Balkans Gather in Sarajevo

22 July 2011: Members of the Steering Board of the newly created Regional Coordination of Missing Persons Family Associations from the former Yugoslavia met for the second time on Friday, 22 July in Sarajevo and discussed strategies to ensure that governments in the region remain vigilant in addressing the issue of missing persons. 

The Regional Coordination body consists of associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. It is estimated that 40,000 persons went missing as a consequence of the various conflicts that took in the regions of the former Yugoslavia.  Today approximately 26,000 persons missing from these conflicts have been accounted for.  The Regional Coordination Body (RCB), as the group is better known, seeks to ensure that governments in the region continue to work in coordination to locate and identify the remaining 14,000 persons missing.

„Our goals as members of the Steering Committee of the Regional Coordination Body are to continue to put pressure on governnment authorities to come forward with information regarding the location of missing persons, as wel as to begin a dialogue with them regarding the establishment of a permanent memory of the missing. We believe that it is essential that the memory of all 40,000 persons who were originally missing from the various armed conflicts are honored in some form.  We will work with our governments to make this happen,“ said Ema Čekić, chairperson of the Steering Board of the Regional Coordination Body and representative of the Union of Bosniak Associations of Families of Captured and Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Olgica Božanić, who is a member of the Association of Families of Kidnapped and Missing Persons from Kosovo and Metohija from the Republic of Serbia stated that, “She  hopes that members of the Regional Coordination Body will work together to help all families of the missing, regardless of nationality or religion, end the agonizing uncertainty regarding the fate of their missing loved ones by putting pressure on governments in the region.”  “We also used the opportunity of this meeting to discuss preparations from the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August,” she added.

We would like to pressure governments to meet, like associations from the Region do, and to participate in discussions that would result in resolving cases of missing persons. It is important that victims are found and buried in a dignified manner; hence we want to make them do so, regardless of possible consequences for the states“, said Ljiljana Alvir from the Union of Associations of Families of Captured and Missing Croatian Defenders.

The International Commission on Missing Persons has been providing assistance to regional associations of the missing persons since 1998 to form a regional body that could effectively advocate for resolution of missing persons cases from the armed conflicts of the 1990’s.  The work of the group expanded later on to include missing persons from the Kosovo conflict. The Regional Coordination Body was formally established in June 2011.

ICMP helps governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other hostilities or violations of human rights and supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.