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Persons who went missing in Croatia

27-11-2000

The fate of many people who disappeared during the conflict in Croatia in 1991 has yet to be established: more than nine years after the conflict, more than 1,900 families are still without news about their relatives.

In December 1991, a few months after the end of the hostilities, a joint inter-governmental Commission involving the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was set up under the auspices of the ICRC to clarify the fate of persons reported missing by their families.

The collection of tracing requests and the transmission of answers to families was the responsibility of the Croatian and Yugoslav National Red Cross Societies, both acting as National Information Bureaux, as provided for in the Geneva Conventions in situations of armed conflict. The ICRC's role was to act as a neutral intermediary by assisting the parties in their talks and ensuring the transmission of information.

Owing to the limited results achieved, the joint Commission was dissolved in early 1994 at a meeting between the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb. In spite of this, the parties resumed their meetings in February 1995. On 17 November 1995, in Dayton, parallel to the talks for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two parties signed a bilateral agreement to reestablish the Commission. They committed themselves to cooperate fully in the search for persons unaccounted for and endeavoured " to undertake, without delay, the exchange of compl ete and precise information about missing persons " . Since then, the Commission met once a month, alternately in Zagreb and Belgrade, with the ICRC acting as observer.

Mutual diplomatic recognition of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Croatia in summer 1996 restored normal relations between the two countries and boosted the exchange of information between them. However, this promising start was not sustained and progress has been slow since early 1997.

Nine years after the conflict, some 1,905 cases have been clarified on the 3,830 files opened (1,839 cases clarified on the 3,487 files opened by the Croatian side;  86 cases clarified on the 343 files opened by the Yugoslav side).