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Western Balkans: families of the disappeared still waiting for news

29-08-2008 News Release 08/161

Belgrade/Sarajevo/Pristina (ICRC) – Seventeen years have gone by since the start of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and nearly 17,000 people are still unaccounted for across the region.

To mark International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling on the authorities in the Western Balkans to pick up the pace in determining what happened to those who went missing in connection with the conflict.

Over the past 12 months, fewer than 1,000 people have been accounted for, leaving the total number of missing at 16,713.

" The answers to what happened to these people lie with the former warring parties, " said Paul-Henri Arni, head of the ICRC's delegation in Serbia. " The authorities have an obligation to provide answers to the families, who have been waiting far too long. "

Uncertainty over the fate of their loved ones has taken a heavy emotional toll on the families, who also lack legal and administrative help in finding out what happened to their relatives.

The ICRC calls on the authorities to lend their full support to regional institutions designed to establish the fate of those who have disappeared, including the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Working Group on Missing Persons in Kosovo and government commissions on missing persons.

" Tribute should be paid to the families, who have shown admirable persistence, courage and dignity in their search for answers, " said Mr Arni. " We appeal to the authorities and the general public to remember them and their needs, today and every day that their loved ones remain unaccounted for. "  

The ICRC continues to stand by the families of the missing and to support the tracing services of the Na tional Red Cross Societies in the Western Balkans. It has recently produced a new manual on psycho-social support, which aims to better enable family associations and National Societies to help families cope with their losses.

For further information, please contact:
  ICRC Belgrade, Vera Dragovic, tel.: + 381 11 344 1522
  ICRC Sarajevo, Sanela Bajrambasic, tel.: +387 33 72 17 80
  ICRC Pristina, Idriz Gashi, tel.: +381 38 228 400
  See also the ICRC's newsletter on missing persons in the Balkans: