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Bosnia-Herzegovina: families have the right to know about relatives unaccounted for

31-01-1996 News Release 96/4

As peace is gradually taking hold in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ICRC is very concerned about the fact that many families still have no news of relatives unaccounted for: " These mothers, wives and sisters are understandably terribly anxious to know what has happened to their loved ones " , said Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC delegation in the country.

On Monday, hundreds of desperate women who had escaped from the enclave of Srebrenica when it fell in July directed their anger at the ICRC delegation in Tuzla and demanded immediate answers to their questions. A small group attacked and ransacked the premises, refusing to leave. ICRC delegates were eventually able to calm them down and explain that the ICRC is doing everything possible to help them.

While the ICRC understands that emotions are running high and that it is intolerable to be without news for over six months, it regrets that violence was used. As things stand, it will not be able to help those concerned until the three former warring parties hand over the information they have concerning the missing. It is up to the parties to break the silence.

In conformity with the Dayton peace accord, the ICRC is setting up an expert commission comprising representatives of the three parties and of the international community. It is in this framework that the parties are to exchange information on the fate of thousands of missing people.

Without such cooperation, the ICRC tracing mechanisms cannot function and anguish will continue to be the daily fare of many families throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina.