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Bosnia-Herzegovina: answers slow to emerge for anxious relatives

11-07-1996 News Release 96/27

The nearly 14,000 families from Bosnia-Herzegovina who have filed tracing requests with the ICRC in the hope of finding missing loved ones are still without news. The unbearable anxiety about the fate of fathers, husbands and brothers still persists. However, some families will soon be receiving answers. When the Working Group on Missing Persons, which was set up and is chaired by the ICRC, met on 9 July in Sarajevo, the former warring parties came forward with information on more than 200 cases which will now be cross-checked by the ICRC before the families are informed.

Under the Dayton Agreement, the parties committed themselves to providing information through the ICRC's tracing mechanisms on all persons unaccounted for.  In addition, the ICRC is gathering information on the issue of missing persons from all other reliable sources and passing it on to the families.

Since January 1996, almost 300 cases have been resolved thanks to information gathered through the Working Group and the ICRC tracing system. Only about 20 of the people concerned were found to be alive. Nevertheless, when the ICRC is obliged to give a family the terrible news that someone dear to them is dead, this at least allows them to begin the grieving process and to make decisions about how to get on with their lives.

" The families have the right to know " , says Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC delegation covering central Bosnia. " Resolving this issue depends on the former warring parties as they are inevitably the major source of information.  Although the process of gathering data is on track, it is unfortunately much too slow for families who have been waiting such a long time for answers "