26 October 2005: After visiting the exhumation of a mass grave site in eastern Bosnia on Wednesday, International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Commissioner Michael Portillo called on the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina to strive for truth and justice for family members of the missing and for the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole.BiH Presidency member Sulejman Tihic, Michael Portillo, a former British Secretary of State for Defence, and British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft led a visit of 8 European Union Ambassadors and 11 senior diplomats in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the exhumation of a mass grave containing skeletal remains of some of the victims of the 1995 fall of Srebrenica. The three future directors of the country’s new State-level Missing Persons Institute (MPI), Milan Bogdanic, Marko Jurisic and Amor Masovic, also took part in today’s visit.
“If Bosnia-Herzegovina is to move beyond the hatreds that produced this type of atrocity,” said Mr. Portillo after visiting the site, “then the Government of this country must assume responsibility for meeting the needs of society for truth and justice, as well as the immediate needs of the families of the missing for closure.”
Mr. Portillo applauded the important step towards providing truth and justice that the Government had taken in implementing the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) as a State-level authority to search for all missing citizens regardless of their religion or national origin. ICMP is a co-founder of the MPI, which was inaugurated as a State-level Government institution in August this year.
Ambassador Matthew Rycroft also praised the Entity Governments and the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina for having the political courage to implement such a State-level institution. “Our visit today demonstrates that the international community recognizes the importance of continuing to address the issue of missing persons and fully supports the Missing Persons Institute in its work to help families of all backgrounds, who share a common pain – the pain of not knowing,” he said.
The ICMP has been assisting the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina in addressing its missing persons issue since 1996, helping to establish appropriate policies on missing persons, working with and advocating on behalf of family members of the missing, and helping to find and excavate grave sites and to identify remains using a combination of forensic anthropology and cutting-edge DNA identification methods.
The British Embassy and UK Government have supported the work of ICMP since 2000, along with donations from other governments and institutions.