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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Over 15,000 people still missing

07-02-2006 News Release 06/06

The ICRC published the seventh edition of the Book of Missing Persons on the Territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina today as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle one of the most serious humanitarian issues in the country.

The latest edition of the book, first published in 1996, contains the names of 15,275 persons still unaccounted for.

Under international humanitarian law, families have the right to learn the fate of their missing relatives and to recover and bury the remains of those who have died, which is an essential part of the grieving process. The obligation to provide the families with the information they need rests with the relevant authorities.

The book bears witness to the suffering of thousands of families in Bosnia-Herzegovina who, 10 years after the end of the war, are still waiting for news of their missing loved ones. Its main purpose is to provide data for all those engaged in the tracing process and to obtain further information that could be of use to them. It is also a reminder that efforts to ascertain the fate of the missing cannot be abandoned until each and every case has been resolved.

The book lists the names of the missing in alphabetical order and by place of disappearance. It provides separate lists of persons about whom no information has been obtained since they were reported missing by their families and of those whose deaths have been reported to the ICRC but whose remains have yet to be found. It can be consulted by the general public in the offices of the ICRC and of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Federal Commission on Missing Persons, the Republika Srpska Office for Tracing Detained and Missing Persons and government officials regularly provide information on the identification of human remains in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This enables the ICRC to update its lists of missing persons. DNA ana lyses and the collection of ante-mortem data have improved the identification process and thousands of families have now recovered the remains of their loved ones.

Since 1995 the ICRC has received 21,480 tracing requests. So far, 6,855 cases have been resolved, mainly through the exhumation and identification of remains. At the same time, more than 350 families have only recently (2005) reported missing relatives to the ICRC. " The sheer numbers show how difficult it is for families to bear the torment of uncertainty, " said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. " It is crucial that the families of missing persons throughout the country be given answers rapidly. They have already waited too long and they cannot recover their peace of mind until they learn what has happened to their relatives. Anyone who can help is requested to come forward. "

The ICRC will pursue its efforts to ascertain the fate of all those still unaccounted for and to support their families, in accordance with its mandate and the Dayton Peace Agreement.

The information contained in the Book of Missing Persons is available in the section Missing persons  

 For further information, please contact:  

 Sanela Bajrambasic, ICRC Sarajevo, +387 33 652 407 or + 387 61 102 278  

 Ian Piper, ICRC Geneva; +41 22 730 5063 or + 41 79 217 3216