Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must fully implement the provisions of the country’s missing persons law, representatives of the BiH Missing Persons Institute (MPI) Advisory Board emphasized during a visit this week to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.
Full implementation of the Law on Missing Persons, which was created in 2004 would require the establishment of a verified BiH Central Record of Missing Persons and the creation of the BiH Fund for Families of the Missing. The Fund would provide financial support to families of the missing, regardless of the national or religious origin of the relative of the missing person, or the circumstances of the disappearance of the missing person.
“We want to work together for all victims. We want government institutions to work together and take responsibility,” said MPI Advisory Board Member Amir Kulaglic. “We have had great results, but we still have missing persons – the families of 7,000 missing persons are still waiting for answers.”
Mr Kulaglic and Advisory Board members Jela Mandic and Fikret Bacic called on BiH authorities to develop a strategy to implement the law on missing persons. If such efforts fail, the law must be amended, they argued.
The visit of the Advisory Board members also included a briefing on ICMP’s continued technical support to BiH, including DNA-based identifications. The Advisory Board also learned about ICMP’s pioneering use of Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS) methods to find DNA matches in cases that could not be solved with current Short Tandem Repeat (STR) methods. MPS enables analysis of degraded samples and can find matches in cases in which no DNA samples from close family members are available. Using MPS, ICMP has made six new identifications relevant to BiH.
“This new technology gives us hope,” Mr. Kulaglic said.
ICMP has assisted the governments in the Western Balkans account for over 70% of the 40,000 persons who went missing during the 1990s conflicts. In BiH, ICMP assisted authorities in finding over 75% of the 30,000 who went missing, including almost 90% of the 8,000 persons who were missing following the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. More than half of the 12,000 who remain missing in the region are from BiH.
In addition, ICMP assisted BiH in drafting the 2004 Law on Missing Persons and helped BiH establish the Missing Persons Institute, which was inaugurated in 2005.
ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger lauded the work of the Advisory Board to defend the rights of all families of the missing.
The visit was part of a two-year project supported by the Government of the United Kingdom and being implemented by ICMP, to ensure the cooperation of the regional governments in finding the remaining 12,000 people who are still missing throughout the region. Countries in the region have formally undertaken to work together as the regional Missing Persons Group, maintaining a process that has already made it possible to account for more than 70 percent of the missing. ICMP facilitates the work of the MPG.
In June 2018 heads of governments from the Western Balkans meeting in London signed a Joint Declaration renewing their commitment to cooperate in the effort to account for those who are still missing. The Joint Declaration was followed by the signing of a Framework Plan last November, at ICMP headquarters in The Hague, by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, who formally undertook to work together as the regional Missing Persons Group (MPG).