Western Balkans Countries Agree On Next Steps in Missing Persons Process

Zagreb 18 April 2019: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has convened the second meeting of the Missing Persons Group (MPG). The group consists of senior representatives of the institutions responsible for missing persons issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia and has a role in supervising operations under the Framework Plan signed in November 2018 in The Hague.

Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, highlighted the fruitful cooperation of all the representatives participating in the meeting. Noting that trust among stakeholders in the region is essential to account for the estimated 12,000 missing persons cases that are still outstanding, he said, “with financial support from the United Kingdom Government we will continue to work with government institutions and with family associations to enhance regional cooperation in order to identify as many as possible of those who are still missing. All the parties are working together to speed up the process. The impediments we are dealing with are technical rather than political.”

During the meeting, the MPG agreed on the program of work leading to the publication of a database of active missing persons cases by the middle of this year. Members nominated locations of potential clandestine graves for joint excavations in the forthcoming period, and the group continued follow-up on No Name or Unidentified (NN) cases, nominating pilot cases and agreeing new measures to resolve these cases.

ICMP is continuing its efforts to build political frameworks for intergovernmental coordination. It is seeking to enhance access to missing persons data across and within borders, increase the capacity of family associations to advocate at a regional level, promote joint excavations, and provide continued access to ICMP’s DNA testing and matching facilities. The United Kingdom has awarded a grant of 1.5 million Euro for a two-year project to support the work of ICMP and strengthen regional cooperation to resolve missing persons cases from the conflicts of the 1990s.

The United Kingdom has been a long-standing supporter of ICMP, diplomatically as well as financially. It played a key role in establishing ICMP’s global mandate, and it was one of the five original signatory countries to the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons in December 2014.

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with headquarters in The Hague. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.