News in English

Duhaime: The issue of missing persons remains an open wound (VIDEO)

FENA Photo/Almir Razić

SARAJEVO, February 15 (FENA) - Chairman of the United Nations Working Group on Forced and Involuntary Disappearances Bernard Duhaime, after a session of this group that took place from February 11-15 in Sarajevo, told reporters today that the issue of missing persons is still an open wound, not only in BiH, in the Western Balkans, but everywhere in the world where this has happened.

He reminded that the Working Group visited BiH for the first time in 2010, and in 2014 they had a wider visit to the countries of the Western Balkans.

“We believe that, when it comes to this region, this issue has a very strong, important regional dimension, and that we must work on achieving concrete results in the region based on regional cooperation. It must be honest and transparent and it must include everyone,” said Duhaime at a press conference in Sarajevo.

He added that it also must be depoliticized and that the issue of missing persons must be regarded as a matter of human rights and solely as a humanitarian issue.

“The working group expressed concern over some of the information it has received regarding polarization and politicization in these matters. Also, with the information about rhetoric that has been present which leads to divisions and harassment. They urges the authorities in BiH, the governments in the region, and the entire international community to work on an effective cooperation on these issues, which can lead to genuine reconciliation in the region,” said Duhaime.

According to Duhaime, truth and justice and their achievement are a prerequisite for true peace. Otherwise, the opposite processes can lead to the emergence of a culture of impunity and further violations of human rights.

Asked to comment on the decision of the RS Government to establish international commissions for investigating the suffering of Serbs in Sarajevo in the period 1991-1995 and the suffering of all the ethnicities in the Srebrenica region in the period 1992-1995, Duhaime said that in the meetings with all the stakeholders, they have been informed of the establishment of these commissions.

“We have been informed about it. We did not discuss this in more detail, since our mandate is to deal with the issues of the missing persons. But we reiterated the necessity of cooperation between all stakeholders and the exchange of information about the fate and possible locations of the remains of missing persons,” he said.

He added that these institutions that have been set up, in his opinion "should facilitate the process of exchanging information on these issues and they should exclusively act in order to finding out the truth for the families of missing persons."

“We hope that they will work in that direction and that there would be positive steps. But we are very concerned about the information on polarization and the destabilizing rhetoric that is being heard in the region and in BiH," said Duhaime.

According to him, measures taken by the authorities should ensure that the truth about the fate of the missing persons is established as soon as possible, and "in no case it should lead to a mentality and culture of impunity and endangering of the reconciliation process."

A member of the Working Group, Houria Es-Slami, said that as far as the issue of establishing these commissions in RS, they have received a lot of concerns from both, the NGOs and government representatives.

“Unfortunately, since this is not a working visit to the country, we did not have the opportunity to meet with representatives of the RS government, to hear more about these initiatives,” said Es-Slami.

She added that they, as a Working Group, are always concerned about initiatives that "do not lead to reconciliation and truth-seeking about the fate of the missing persons, but can only lead to further deterioration of the situation and increased distrust in the region."

She noted that the Working Group will monitor this situation, and everything that happens in connection with this initiative.

“We are ready to review the entire matter, read the information about this initiative and after a discussion within the Working Group we will be ready to voice our opinion,” said Es-Slami.

A member of the Working Group, Luciano Hazan, pointed out that it is a very important message from the Working Group as a whole to say that they do not draw lines between the victims in relation to their nationality, religious or any other affiliation.

He added that he wanted to emphasize that they met with representatives of families of victims from the Federation of BiH and RS, and that they were very glad that they heard that there was dialogue and cooperation among them.

“Our message to the state, local and international authorities is that they should continue helping maintain that dialogue. We think that he is very important and, above all, it is for the benefit of the victims,” emphasized Hazan.

A member of the Working Group, Henrikas Mickevicius, said that, what is troubling in that decision of RS authorities is that "it is possible, of course, but it does not mean that it must be so, that these commissions will try to review the findings of the previous commission that has already compiled its report on the events in Srebrenica".

“We shall follow what is happening. However, we are a very narrow expert body dealing with missing persons and enforced disappearances. Our mandate is pretty narrow. But, we will certainly monitor it and we will examine these decisions of the RS authorities,” said Mickevicius.

Watch VIDEO

Download VIDEO

(FENA) S.R.