The ICRC in the Western Balkans

29-10-2010 Overview

In Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, the ICRC focuses on supporting efforts to trace missing persons and helping their families.

The ICRC has a regional delegation in Belgrade, covering Albania, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The ICRC also has a sub-delegation for Bosnia and Herzegovina, located in Sarajevo, plus a mission for Kosovo,* located in Pristina. The organization's main roles in the Western Balkans are to support efforts to determine the fate of people missing in relation to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and to ensure that their families’ legal, psychological and economic needs are met.

This includes assisting the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo with amendments to existing legislation and the drafting of new laws to protect the rights of missing persons' families.

Dialogue between the authorities of Kosovo and those of Serbia through the ICRC-chaired Working Group on Missing Persons, combined with ICRC efforts to glean new information from the archives of international organizations and national military contingents in Kosovo, results in exhumations, the exchange of information and the handing over of human remains to families in both countries.

The delegation in Sarajevo is helping to increase the capabilities of the Missing Persons Institute in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the mission in Pristina supports the Government Commission on Missing Persons in Kosovo. To boost assistance to families of missing persons, the delegations trains National Society staff in the provision of psychological support and gives funds and advice to family associations.

In Croatia, the ICRC works closely with the Croatian Red Cross on the issue of missing persons and was involved in publishing the "Book of missing persons on the territory of the Republic of Croatia."

The ICRC visits detainees throughout the region, focusing on those detained on war-crime or security-related charges and those who are particularly vulnerable. It submits its findings and any recommendations to the authorities, in confidence. The ICRC also facilitates visits by relatives to detainees in Croatia and Kosovo and contacts between people held in Guantanamo and their families.

National authorities in the region receive advice from the ICRC on acceding to and implementing international humanitarian law (IHL) treaties and on developing laws protecting missing persons and their families. Judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers dealing with war-crimes cases attend presentations on IHL and its relevance to their work. The regional delegation in Belgrade maintains a dialogue with the region’s armed forces regarding the incorporation of IHL into military training and helps develop training manuals. It also participates in Peace Support Operations Training Centre training sessions and runs advanced IHL training for military and police cadets in Serbia.

The ICRC raises awareness of humanitarian issues, particularly those relating to missing persons, through public events and contacts with the media and civil society. It also helps the authorities to ensure the sustainability of the Exploring Humanitarian Law programme in schools by supporting teacher training and monitoring, and contributes to university IHL teaching.

In coordination with the International Federation, the ICRC provides the region’s National Societies with funding, training and technical assistance, enabling them to develop their family-links services, promote IHL and undertake mine action.




* UNSC Resolution 1244


Family reunification in Kosovo 

A family reunited