21 April 2011: The British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, H.E. Michael Tatham opened a session of the Advisory Board of the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina (MPI BiH) by launching an ICMP Guide for Families of the Missing. Following this, Ambassador Tatham visited the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) facilities and met with ICMP’s forensic experts in Tuzla.
Ambassador Tatham opened the BIH MPI Advisory Board session and addressed the attending representatives of missing persons’ family associations from the region of Eastern and Northern BiH, as well as representatives of MPI’s Board of Directors and its Steering Board.
“The British Government is pleased to have supported the publication of this ICMP Guide for Families of the Missing”, H.E. Michael Tatham said during the opening of MPI Advisory Board meeting. “It has been compiled from questions raised by family members throughout BiH during an extensive series of meetings in March 2011 at which ICMP also presented its Online Inquiry Centre. These initiatives are intended to provide reliable information to families at a time when inaccurate and politically motivated statements cause unnecessary distress to people who have already suffered too much.”
Ambassador Tatham then visited ICMP’s Identification Coordination Division (ICD), where ICMP receives, submits for processing, archives, and matches all blood samples collected from relatives of missing persons and all bone samples from exhumed mortal remains received from government authorities in all of the countries where ICMP has programs. Having been bar-coded to ensure anonymity the samples are sent to ICMP’s laboratories for DNA analysis. Once extracted, the DNA profiles are entered into ICMP’s database and compared to each other to find possible matches. To date ICMP has made 13,500 matches for BiH alone. Including identification made by traditional means, over two thirds of those missing from the conflict have been identified regardless of ethnicity.
Ambassador Tatham also toured PIP, a facility specifically created to assist in the identification of persons missing from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica, and where mortal remains of these victims are examined and stored until final identification. Ambassador Tatham saw first-hand how ICMP forensic experts conduct ante-mortem and post-mortem data comparisons, and assist domestic authorities in PIP in making a final determination of identity so that families can bury their loved ones with dignity.
The series of meeting throughout BiH and the publication of ICMP’s guide for families of missing persons was financed via a generous donation from the British Government.
In addition to its technical support in the identification process, ICMP is the co-founder of the Missing Persons Institute of BiH. ICMP also contributes to transitional justice activities, provides legislative support and helps in the development of networks of civil society organizations which advocate for truth, justice, and for the rights of family members of missing persons.