Resolving the Fate of Missing Persons: A Prerequisite for European Integration

13 November 2005: Associations of Families of Missing Persons called today on governments in the former Yugoslavia to fulfill their responsibility to resolve the fate of persons missing as a result of the conflicts there during the 1990s and to ensure that the rights of surviving relatives are protected. At the conclusion of a three-day Regional Conference of family members of the missing in Novi Sad, northern Serbia, organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), participants expressed unity in their determination to work in partnership with all responsible bodies to resolve the missing persons issue as quickly as possible.Participants at the conference, who included family members of the missing of all main ethnic groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, agreed to send a message to the European Commission that resolving the issue of missing persons, as well as the prosecution of war criminals, should be a condition for entry into the European Union.

“I am proud of the progress made by families of missing persons in asserting their rights for the truth about the fate of their missing loved ones” said ICMP Chief of Staff Kathryne Bomberger, adding, “We are also pleased about the support for a State-level ministerial conference in the region to allow governments to discuss trilateral missing persons issues and the support for the Missing Persons Institute in Bosnia and Herzegovina to become fully operational.”

Addressing the media at the conclusion of the conference, family association representative Ahmet Grahic expressed satisfaction with the constructive communication between the current Government Commissions on Missing Persons, but added that “more mortal remains still need to be found.”

Participants said they left the conference feeling united in their commitment to cooperate with each other, regardless of their religious, national or ethnic background, to help each other fight for answers about the fate of their missing relatives. “If we who suffered the most can sit beside each other and discuss these issues, the government and media should too,” said family association representative Milijana Bojic. “We will continue to contribute to the process and to pressure Governments to resolve this problem faster,” said association representative Ivan Psenica, who called for more frequent communications and exchange of information between Government Commissions in the region.

Conclusions of the conference also included a recommendation for the adoption of appropriate legislation on addressing the rights of family members of the missing in each of the affected countries of the region; such legislation should include provisions for the welfare of children of missing persons. Participants also demanded that governments allocate appropriate financial and technical resources for the exhumation and identification process.