Western Balkans Regional Missing Persons Group Has Resolved 387 Missing Persons Cases Since July 2019

Belgrade 26 October 2020: Meeting in Belgrade last week, the Missing Persons Group (MPG), which brings together institutions that are responsible for addressing the issue of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, adopted the MPG annual report, which notes that the group’s collective work has led to the identification of the remains of 387 persons who were missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

The report, which covers July 2019 to November 2020, will be presented in the context of the Berlin Process summit later this year.

“Since July last year, the MPG has closed 387 missing persons cases, and each identification has been recorded in the Regional Database of active missing persons cases,” Matthew Holliday, the Head of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP’s) Western Balkans Program, said at this week’s meeting. “This shows tangible progress despite the challenges the region is facing.”

In the last two decades, by ensuring the cooperation of post-conflict governments, ICMP has supported a regional effort that so far has accounted for 28,000 of the 40,000 people who were missing at the end of the conflicts, an achievement that has not been equaled anywhere else in the world.

“The MPG is responsible for ensuring that the remaining 12,000 missing persons are accounted for and that reliable and accurate information is provided to families of the missing,” Matthew Holliday said. ‘By taking part actively, all parties demonstrate their commitment to fulfil the responsibility that all states have to investigate missing persons cases in an effective manner based on the rule of law.”

The MPG comprises senior representatives of the institutions in the region that are responsible for addressing missing persons issues. It plays a role in supervising operations under a Framework Plan signed in November 2018 at ICMP’s Headquarters in The Hague. The United Kingdom is financing the implementation of the Framework Plan.

The Framework Plan stems from a Declaration signed in London in July 2018 in which the Prime Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland reiterated their commitment to support efforts to account for 12,000 people who are still missing as a result of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

ICMP supports regional cooperation by fostering intergovernmental cooperation and adherence to a jointly agreed work plan, including the use of a single, shared data repository that is held by ICMP and is being used by the regional governments to enhance efforts to find the missing. ICMP also works with family associations of the missing across the region to help them strengthen their advocacy capacity at a regional level. In addition, ICMP supports cross-border, joint excavations and provides access to its DNA testing and matching facilities. This has made it possible to close such a high number of cases with scientific certitude.  The scientific accuracy of identifications, based on DNA kinship matching has been critical to the provision of evidence and securing the rights of families to truth, justice and reparations.

The United Kingdom is 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.

About ICMP

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