Statement on Commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared

Statement on Commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) commemorates the International Day of the Disappeared and calls upon the successor countries of the former Yugoslavia to reinforce their efforts in establishing the fates of all persons who disappeared during or in relation to the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and to improve the legal and social status of the families of victims of enforced disappearance.

The process of disclosing the secret locations containing the mortal remains of missing persons and the process of establishing the fates of the disappeared have stagnated seriously during the past several years. According to the statements made by representatives of the local and foreign institutions involved in this process (commissions for missing persons, the International Committee of the Red Cross, etc.), the greatest challenge is the lack of information about the secret locations where the mortal remains of the disappeared have been buried. The HLC believes that the current approach of the institutions responsible for this problem is characterized by lack of political will and an inertia of many years when it comes to the collection of information relating to these secret locations. For this reason, it is important that the institutions responsible start designing new mechanisms for the collection of information on the fate of the missing, including the installation of new anonymous phone lines and media campaigns.

The HLC also wishes to point out the unacceptable legal and social status of families of the disappeared, primarily in Serbia. Namely, family members of the disappeared in Serbia are not recognized as families of civilian victims of war, but have to declare the death of their family member in order to obtain this status. Because of this, family members of the missing who do not want to declare their missing family member dead until his/her fate is established and their mortal remains are found, are deprived of the rights reserved for family members of victims whose fate has been determined (monthly pensions, health care, etc.). This legal solution is not in conformity with the legal standards for the protection of victims of war, primarily, the Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance ratified by Serbia in May 2011.

According to the information of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from July 2013, 11,859 persons are still registered as missing. There are 7,886 missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2,246 in Croatia, and 1,727 in Kosovo.