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Croatia: still searching for answers on the missing

03-06-2005 Feature

More than 2,500 people are still listed as missing in connection with the conflicts that affected Croatia between 1991 and 1995. Their families have filed tracing requests and reports on death with the ICRC or with national Red Cross societies in the region and worldwide.

Ten years after the armed conflicts ended the ICRC remains committed to clarifying the fate of missing persons in Croatia. It supports the efforts of both the authorities and the Croatian Red Cross tracing service. The ICRC is also in contact with associations representing the families of the missing and with individuals who approach it directly to obtain news of their missing relatives.

The ICRC continues to collect tracing requests and reports on death and submits them to the authorities. It also issues letters to families simply confirming that they reported their relative as missing – these documents are often needed to settle various administrative and property-related issues.

The ICRC also helps families that lack valid travel documents get entry permits for Croatia, so as to be present at the identification of human remains and later to bury their relatives. It can also provide transport for these families.

 Painful closure  

Exhumations and the identification of human remains have brought painful closure to many families. Yet some families are still waiting. To help them, the ICRC works with the relevant authorities in the search for information.

The ICRC also assists in the campaign to collect ante mortem data (AMD) from relatives of the missing living in Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and western Europe, north America and Aus tralia.

Each family is asked close to 200 questions to clarify the circumstances of the disappearance of their relative, gather details of the personal belongings of the missing person and verify medical and dental records. The data collected is used to confirm the findings of post-mortem examinations and DNA analysis of human remains. It helps to identify the dead, thereby bringing clarity and closure to the families concerned.

" The families of the missing persons have the right to know what happened to their loved ones " said Martina Murgic, head of the ICRC office in Zagreb " And international humanitarian law obliges the authorities to provide them with answers. "