At a meeting of the Missing Persons Group (MPG) this week, representatives for institutions responsible for missing persons issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia made key decisions on joint activities in 2020 that will contribute to accounting for persons who are still missing as a result of the 1990s conflicts in former Yugoslavia.
The decisions MPG made at the 30 January meeting in Priština, convened by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), include A series of bilateral meetings will be held to prioritise joint reconnaissance and excavation of potential locations of mass graves in 2020, MPG members will liaise with ICMP regarding forensic examination and biological sampling of NN (unidentified) cases of human remains in order to facilitate DNA analysis for the purpose of identification of missing persons.
Also, MPG will jointly mark the 2020 International Day of the Disappeared and issue a joint appeal for information on possible locations of mass graves and for families of the missing to provide genetic reference samples.
In addition, MPG members from Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia agreed to meet trilaterally, with ICMP facilitation, to strengthen cooperation to facilitate the launch of an online Regional Database of active missing persons cases.
Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, welcomed the result of the meeting.
“The steps agreed will advance work to identify persons still missing, and should eventually contribute to easing the uncertainty for their families,” he said. “Regional cooperation – supported by ICMP – made it possible to account for more than 70 percent of the 40,000 people who were missing at the end of the conflict. To resolve the remaining cases, further regional cooperation is needed, making the efforts of MPG crucial.”
The MPG includes representatives for national institutions responsible for missing persons issues in their countries.
ICMP supports regional cooperation by working to build political frameworks for intergovernmental coordination, to enhance access to missing persons data across and within borders and to increase the capacity of family associations to advocate at a regional level. ICMP also supports joint excavations and provides access to its DNA testing and matching facilities.
At the meeting, MPG members also discussed implementation of a Framework Plan that was signed in November 2018 in The Hague.
The Framework Plan followed a Declaration signed in July 2018 in London by the Prime Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland that included a commitment to support efforts to account for those who remain missing.
The meeting in Priština, the third of its kind, was part of a two-year project funded by the United Kingdom to support the work of ICMP and strengthen regional cooperation to resolve missing persons cases from the conflicts of the 1990s.
The United Kingdom is a long-standing ICMP supporter, 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.