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ICRC launches public campaign to trace the missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

12-06-1996 News Release

Sarajevo (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is today launching a public campaign to collect information on persons reported missing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in order to provide their families with definite answers as to their whereabouts.

The first issue of a publication containing information collected from the families of 11,000 missing persons, such as personal details and the date and place where they were last seen, is now available at all Red Cross offices in the former Yugoslavia and at the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of countries which have received refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The same information can also be accessed on the ICRC public server on the Web. The ICRC expects this initiative to generate a major response from the public.

With the aim of reaching as wide a readership as possible, leaflets and posters informing the population about this new publication have been distributed through National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and radio and television spots have been broadcast on local networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ICRC also appeals to the families of missing persons who have not yet filed an ICRC tracing request to do so, to allow the ICRC to continue collecting and centralizing requests and replies.

The ICRC regards it as a matter of the utmost importance that the families concerned be informed of the fate of their relatives without further delay. Although a number of missing persons could still be in detention, in hiding or abroad, the ICRC has reason to believe that most of those whom it has not been possible to trace so far are no longer alive. Nevertheless, fa milies have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. Without such answers, peace and reconciliation might be difficult to achieve.

Under the Peace Agreement, the parties are obliged to provide information to the ICRC, which in turn has been entrusted with the task of collecting all relevant information on missing persons. All the former warring parties regularly meet in a Working Group chaired by the ICRC to exchange information about persons still unaccounted for. " We hope that this massive campaign aimed at the general public will help speed up the process " , said Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC delegation in Sarajevo. " Distressed families come to our offices every day, but without the active support of the population and the relevant authorities we are unable to give them the information they need " .