International Day of the Disappeared: Search for 9,969 people continues three decades on in the region

Belgrade (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in cooperation with the Coordination of Serbian Associations of Families of Missing, Murdered and Killed Persons from the Former Yugoslavia, the Red Cross of Serbia and the Commission for Missing Persons of the Republic of Serbia, marked the International Day of the Disappeared.

According to the ICRC, 9,969 people are still listed as missing since 1991, when the first conflicts broke out in the former Yugoslavia.

"The disappearance of about 35,000 people in the conflicts of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia caused major pain and suffering to their families and relatives and obligated us as a society to help them solve their problems. Some families have been looking for their loved ones for as long as 30 years. Looking at the way things are going, their search could continue for decades," said the head of the ICRC regional delegation in Belgrade, Ms Jelena Stijacic.

"During 2019, 218 people were found and identified, in 2020 only 46, and from the beginning of this year until today, 43 people. We are aware that establishing the whereabouts of missing people is complex and time-consuming, but better regional cooperation and exchange of information can improve this process. The issue of missing people must be treated as an exclusively humanitarian one, devoid of political considerations and hence, accelerated," Ms Stijacic added.

Due to its unique status and humanitarian mandate, the ICRC is directly involved in the search process and has been provided with access to the archives of international organizations and countries whose military units had been present on the ground during the conflicts in the region.

The organization has hired researchers and analysts to carefully search these archives for information on missing persons or the locations of the remains of those who lost their lives.

The ICRC has secured full support for this work from international institutions as well as representatives of the highest authorities throughout the region. The ICRC appeals to the national authorities in the region to give it access to information from their archives, both military and civilian, relating to missing persons and locations of gravesites, in order to speed up this process.

The ICRC in the region remains committed to clarifying the fate of missing persons through the search of national and international archives as well as its role of a neutral intermediary, along with providing legal and forensic expertise and support to the families and their associations.

For additional information, please contact:
Sanja Ivaniš, ICRC Belgrade, tel.: + 381 11 228 55 52 or +381 64 8444 440