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Kosovo: New meeting of working group on missing

09-06-2005 News Release 05/48

The working group on persons missing in connection with events in Kosovo met today in Pristina.

The working group is chaired by the ICRC, acting as a neutral intermediary, and meets under the auspices of the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general in Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen. Its purpose is to clarify what happened to nearly 3,000 persons still unaccounted for in connection with the events in Kosovo between January 1998 and December 2000. The previous meetings were in March 2004 and March 2005.

The ICRC convened today's session after the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina reiterated their commitment in March this year to ascertain the fate of the missing and to give this long-awaited information to the families concerned. At today's meeting, both sides reported on the measures taken by them since March and reaffirmed their responsibility for working further to resolve this matter of pressing humanitarian concern.

François Stamm, the ICRC's head of operations for south-eastern Europe and chairman of the working group, took note of official statements by the Belgrade and Pristina delegations confirming that no person was still being detained on their territory in connection with the events in Kosovo, with the exception of those who had been visited by their relatives and/or the ICRC.

Mr Stamm also noted that there had been improvements in the process of exhuming and identifying human remains. He said that since the group's last meeting the fate of more than 200 missing persons had been confirmed and their mortal remains handed over to their families. At today's meeting the Belgrade and Pristina delegations also reported that the identification of further remains was nearly complete. They added that these would shortly be handed over to the families concerned. According to the group's provisional list, the number of persons unaccounted for now stands at 2,716, compared with 2,919 three months ago.

" This is an encouraging step forward, " said Mr Stamm after the meeting. " I'm convinced that the working group has helped make this possible and that momentum has been created. But this is just a beginning. There are still so many families with no news of their missing loved ones. They all deserve answers. "

    

 For further information, please contact:  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 29 30 / +41 79 217 32 26  

 Gordana Milenkovic, ICRC Belgrade, tel. +381 11 344 15 22  

 Idriz Gashi, ICRC Pristina, tel. +377 44 168 848