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Persons who went missing in former UN sectors

27-11-2000

Some 980 people of Serbian and Croatian origin have been reported missing by their families in the former UN Sectors (regions in Croatia previously under control of the self-proclaimed Serb Krajina Republic and placed under UN protection from 1992 until 1995). These people disappeared either while the UN Sectors were in existence or after the Croatian military operations in the former Sectors West, North and South in 1995.

The military operations of 1995 triggered the biggest single population movement (approx.150,000 persons) since the war began in the region and resulted in the separation of or loss of contact between thousands of families. In the immediate aftermath, the ICRC began collecting Red Cross messages from those who had remained in the former Sectors, mainly elderly people stranded in extremely difficult conditions, and in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or Eastern Slavonia, where most of those fleeing had sought refuge.  This enabled thousands of families to restore contact with their relatives.

At the same time, in Croatia, over 2,000 persons arrested in relation to the conflict were registered.

Maintaining family links was a vital source of moral and psychological comfort for the mainly elderly population  left behind in the former Sectors. Together with protection activities and relief assistance, it was also an important part of the ICRC's work for this extremely vulnerable group.

The Croatian and Yugoslav National Societies assisted in the coll ection of tracing requests from families in the former Sectors and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia who had not managed to find their families using Red Cross messages.  In its capacity as a neutral intermediary between the families and the authorities, the ICRC submitted the tracing requests either directly to the Croatian authorities or to representatives of the former Serb Krajina authorities. At the beginning of 1997, the first answers were exchanged within the framework of the Commission for missing persons between the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  However, many tracing cases opened by the families remain unsolved.

Five years after this military operation, some 163 cases have been clarified on the 981 files opened.