Relatives of Missing Persons in Kosovo Demand Action
Bajram Qerkini, a Kosovo Albanian whose son has been missing since 1999, and Milorad Trifunovic, a Kosovo Serb looking for his missing brother, said international pressure should be put on both Kosovo and Serbia to provide information on the whereabouts of 1,655 people who remain unaccounted for from the Kosovo conflict.
Qerkini heads the missing persons association “Parent’s Voice” from the southern part of Mitrovica, while Trifunovic, from the mainly Serb north, represents the association of missing from Serbian and non-Albanian communities in Kosovo.
Both took part in an event to discuss co-operation between NGOs on the issue organised by the UN Development Coordinator office in Kosovo, UNDC in Pristina.
Qerkini and Trifunovic said the truth about the fate of missing persons from the Kosovo conflict lay in the hands of the politicians.
“Politics has frozen the way,” Qerkini told the audience. “Pressure should continue on those who have the information”.
Trifunovic also said that the governments in Pristina and Belgrade were stalling on offering hard information.
“The big powers should apply pressure [on them] because this is how it goes in Balkans, with pressure,” Trifunovic said.
He also criticised the ongoing EU-led negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade for failing to deal with the missing persons issue.
“I can’t believe neither delegation in Brussels put the issue of missing persons on the table,” he said.
Joel Mermet, former head of the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, agreed on the need to continue applying pressure on Pristina and Belgrade to exchange information on the missing.
“Witness protection is a serious question,” he said. “No one will talk about the missing. Kosovo is a small territory, everyone knows everyone, so it is hard to protect witnesses,” he added.