Kosovo: ICRC appeals for new information on missing persons
The working group on persons who are unaccounted for in connection with events in Kosovo held its 11th public session today in Pristina. Chaired by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the working group is a humanitarian forum which brings together representatives of the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina, members of the international community, associations of families of missing persons, and Red Cross organizations.
Over the past year, the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina have continued their efforts in the framework of the working group to account for missing persons. This has involved examining information and conducting field activities at potential gravesite locations such as Rudnica/Rashka and Koshare/Kosare.
However, with only 46 cases resolved in the past 17 months and with hundreds of families still not knowing what happened to their loved ones, further progress will require concrete steps. "It is high time for the authorities to come forward with new information. This is essential if the process of tracing missing persons is to advance," said Lina Milner, the chairperson of the working group.
Also today, the ICRC published the fifth edition of the Book of Missing Persons, which contains the names of 1,754 people reported missing by their families. The book is both a tool in the tracing process and a reminder that, for 14 years, the families of more than 1,700 missing persons from different ethnic backgrounds have been living in uncertainty, waiting to find out what became of their relatives. The book is widely distributed to the authorities and to the public throughout the region, and wherever the families of missing persons are living. The list of missing persons is also on the ICRC family links website.
"The ICRC takes this opportunity to appeal to the public, the authorities and anyone who might have information on what happened to missing persons, to come forward and share it," said Ms Milner.
Under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, families have the right to know what has happened to their missing relatives. The authorities and former parties to the conflict bear primary responsibility for providing answers.
In the 1990s, a decade of conflict caused the disappearance of over 30,000 people. Even now, the ICRC still lists more than 12,000 of them as missing. If their families are to find solace and put the violence behind them, they must know what happened.