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Kosovo: fate of over 1700 missing persons yet to be clarified

24-11-2011 News Release

Belgrade/Pristina/Geneva (ICRC) – The working group on persons who are unaccounted for in connection with events in Kosovo held its 10th public session today in Belgrade. The meeting, which was chaired by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), brought together representatives of the Belgrade and Pristina authorities, members of the international community, family associations and the Red Cross.

Over the past year, the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina have continued their efforts to account for missing persons in accordance with their commitments within the working group. Alleged gravesite locations in Perucac, Livoq/Livoc and Medvedja have been examined. Work is still under way in Raska, Koshare/Kosare and Zhilivode/Zilivode.

"Despite these efforts, we are very concerned about the slow pace of the process," said Lina Milner, the chairperson of the working group. "The lack of new information on potential gravesites and the issue of unidentified remains are real obstacles to swifter progress. Both need to be urgently addressed."

Well over 10 years after the events in Kosovo, out of the total of 6,019 persons reported to the ICRC as missing by their families, 1,799 remain unaccounted for. Since the last public session of the working group, held in Pristina in April 2010, only 74 cases have been resolved.

"The families have to live with the never-ending pain of not knowing what happened to their missing loved ones. They have had to bear this burden for over a decade," said Ms Milner. "The authorities in both Belgrade and Pristina have the primary responsibility to provide answers and support to the families. There is a pressing need for both sides to step up their efforts and use every available resource to quickly obtain more information."

The working group is a humanitarian forum chaired by the ICRC in which representatives of the Belgrade and Pristina authorities exchange information and plan activities aimed at determining what became of the persons who went missing in Kosovo between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000. It was established in 2004 under the auspices of the United Nations secretary-general's special representative for Kosovo.

For further information, please contact:
Gordana Milenkovic, ICRC Belgrade, tel: +381 63 287 415
Albiona Muslia, ICRC Pristina, tel: +381 38 249 114/115
Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2180 or +41 79 536 9259