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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Many thousands still missing 10 years after war ends

22-11-2005 News Release 05/86

The ICRC has expressed concern that 10 years after the signing of the Dayton peace agreement the fate of some 14,000 persons missing in connection with the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina remains unresolved.

The situation cannot improve without cooperation from the authorities in the region and others in a position to shed light on the fate of the missing, " said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. " Under international humanitarian law the families of the missing have a right to know what happened to their loved ones. " Ms Gasser was speaking after chairing a meeting in Sarajevo of the working group on persons unaccounted for following the conflict. She added that since the working group's previous meeting a year ago, 1,310 cases of missing persons had nevertheless been solved through exhumation and identification of human remains as well as work carried out by the authorities, the ICRC and the International Commission for Missing Persons.

After the meeting, families of missing persons expressed their dissatisfaction with the results achieved: " Our demands and our appeals to the representatives of the government and the international community have not been heard, " said Ahmet Grahic, speaking on behalf of the associations of families with missing relatives. " As a result, we have made only small steps in asserting our right to know the truth about the fate of our missing loved ones. " The associations also called on the authorities to provide material and financial support and additional experts to carry out exhumations at all located gravesites, identify already exhumed remains and undertake the investigations needed to clarify the fate of all missing persons.

The working group is chaired by the ICRC and includes officials of the State authorities and of the entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina - the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Republika Srpska - as well as of the office of the high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Officials from Croatia and from Serbia and Montenegro, ambassadors of the countries that witnessed the signing of the Dayton agreement and associations of families with missing relatives and other organizations attended today's meeting as observers. The Dayton agreement formally recognizes the role of the ICRC as a neutral intermediary in the process of throwing light on what has happened to missing persons.

The working group's next meeting is scheduled for the second half of 2006. Until then, the relevant authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the other members of the working group will continue their efforts to resolve the problem of the missing, with the ICRC acting as coordinator.

 For further information please contact:  

 Sanela Bajrambasic, ICRC Sarajevo, tel. +387 33 65 24 07 or +387 61 10 22 78  

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