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Serbia/Kosovo: joint commitment to support process on alleged Raska gravesite

27-05-2010 News Release 10/92

Pristina/Belgrade (ICRC) – After statements appeared in the media regarding an alleged gravesite near the Serbian town of Raska, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convened, at the request of the parties, an ad hoc meeting of the working group on persons missing in connection with the events in Kosovo between January 1998 and December 2000. The meeting took place in Pristina yesterday.

" Allegations relating to gravesites such as the one in Raska are a reminder that thousands of families, from diverse ethnic backgrounds, continue to live in perpetual anxiety while still hoping to find out what happened to their loved ones, " said Lina Milner, the ICRC delegate chairing the working group meeting. " With this ad hoc meeting, the ICRC is endeavouring, once again, to facilitate dialogue between the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina and to help them to exchange information that could shed light on the fate of missing persons. "

Representatives of Serbia's war crimes prosecution office, the Council for War Crimes (the Special Court) of Belgrade and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) were invited to attend the meeting as observers.

" The missing persons issue has many dimensions – political, legal, social and so on – but we should not forget that it is, above all, a humanitarian issue, " said Ms Milner. " Families have the right to know the fate of their relatives. The ICRC is hopeful that the authorities concerned will step up their search for new gravesites and find out what happened to the individuals who have gone missing. "

In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC has been chairing since March 2004 the " Working group on persons who are unaccounted for in connection with events in Kosovo. " The group's primary mandate is to provide support for efforts to trace missing persons and to convey to the families any information obtained.

At yesterday's meeting, both parties – from Pristina and Belgrade – showed their readiness to en gage in a process that could lead to a site assessment once enough precise and accurate information has been collected.

The ICRC stands ready to provide support for any future operation similarly aiming to relieve the anxiety of families of missing persons.

For further information, please contact:
  Idriz Gashi, ICRC Pristina, tel: +377 44 168 848
  Gordana Milenkovic, ICRC Belgrade, tel: +381 11 228 55 45
  Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26