The Republic of Serbia is the successor state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and then of Serbia and Montenegro. In 1991 at the outbreak of hostilities in former Yugoslavia, Belgrade vested responsibility for dealing with the issue of missing persons with a Federal Commission for the Exchange of Prisoners of War. A State Commission for Humanitarian Issues was established in November 1994 with a Department for Searching for Missing Persons. Since June 2006, the Commission on Missing Persons of the Government of the Republic of Serbia has been responsible for the issue. Serbia still searches for:
- Citizens of the Republic of Serbia who went missing on the territory of the Republic of Croatia;
- Citizens of the Republic of Croatia whose relatives today reside in Serbia and have started a search process with the Commission in Belgrade;
- Citizens of Serbia who went missing on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
- Citizens of Serbia who went missing in relation to the Kosovo conflict.
Following the break-up of former Yugoslavia, the issue of the missing has had a complex and significant impact on Serbia. In practical terms, the failure to account for substantial numbers of people in areas of neighboring countries where Serb communities formerly lived has acted as a deterrent to the return of Serb refugees. This, in turn, has been taken up by Serb nationalists and used as an argument against regional reconciliation.
Since 1996, ICMP has worked with the Commission on Missing Persons and its predecessors. In 2001 ICMP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the former Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well as an Agreement with the Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohija. The latter enabled ICMP to assist in the excavation and identification of persons missing from the Kosovo conflict.
Under these agreements, in 2001 and 2002 ICMP assisted in the recovery of more than 800 mortal remains relevant to the Kosovo conflict from clandestine graves found in Serbia, including locations in Bajina Bašta, Petrovo Selo and Batajnica. Through its cooperation with Serbia, as well as with UNMIK and later EULEX, ICMP used DNA testing to assist in identifying 90% of the mortal remains that were recovered between 2001 and 2002.
In 2002, ICMP also signed an Agreement on Cooperation with the Federal Commission for Humanitarian Issues and Missing Persons to address the issue of persons missing from the conflicts that took place in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1991 and 1995. With the assistance of ICMP, more than 300 persons missing from those conflicts have been recovered and returned to Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ICMP opened an office and established a DNA laboratory in Belgrade in 2002. The laboratory was handed over to the Serbian authorities in 2006.
In 2014, ICMP renewed its agreement with the Government of Serbia Commission on Missing Persons through an exchange of letters relating specifically to the provision of assistance in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons related to the conflict in Kosovo, following the discovery of a gravesite in Southern Serbia.
ICMP will continue to help Serbia and other countries in the region complete the process of locating and identifying missing persons as a result of the conflicts of the 1990s. In addition, ICMP is monitoring the process of excavations of mortal remains and is supporting civil society organizations representing families of the missing.
Serbia continues in its efforts to find missing persons on its territory. To date, approximately 1,100 persons have been found of whom almost 900 were missing from the Kosovo conflict and the remainder from the conflicts of 1991-1995.