CONFERENCE COMMUNIQUÉ

ON THE OCCASION OF MARKING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN RIGHTS

“the issue of Missing Persons at crossroads”

ORGANIZED BY MISSING PERSONS RESOURCE CENTER

Monday, 9 December 2019, Pristina

Today, on 9 December 2019, Missing Persons Resource Center, MPRC, with support of British Embassy in Kosovo and American Embassy in Kosovo, organized a roundtable discussion “ The Issue of the Missing Persons on a crossroad” with family members of Missing persons, panelists from government, Institute of Ombudsperson and CDHRF, on the occasion of marking of the International Day of Human Rights.  

The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the government’s achievements in implementing the joint declaration signed at the Fifth Western Balkans Summit in London in July 2018, within the Berlin process, where all 14 leaders signed a Joint Declaration on regional cooperation and good neighborly relations, war crimes and missing persons. As part of the Joint Declaration, Western Balkans leaders have pledged, inter alia, “to provide an impartial and effective investigation into missing persons cases in accordance with international human rights standards and to resolve as many missing persons cases as possible” over the next five years.” The commitment to implement the Joint Declaration was further confirmed at the 6th Summit on the Western Balkans, held in Poznan in July 2019.

The Declaration, signed in London, was followed by the signing of the Framework Plan in The Hague in November 2018 by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, who have formally pledged to work together as a regional missing group (MPG) to promote regional co-operation in addressing the issue of missing persons from the conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

It was concluded that despite the agreements reached, the rights of missing persons and their family members are still being violated through:

  • Continuous violation of the right to know the whereabouts of missing persons and the right to dignified burial;
  • Denial of the right to apply to the International Court of Human Rights in The Hague;
  • Delays in addressing the requests of family members of missing persons;
  • Delays in the adoption of the new Law on Missing Persons for 3 years, which would slightly alleviate the situation of the families of missing persons.

However, the roundtable failed to draw concrete conclusions on the key question ‘what has the Kosovo government done to implement the obligations of the London Summit Declaration and The Hague Framework Plan’, which suggests that in reality no serious work has been done on this direction. Failure to treat these obligations seriously is a poor treatment of the rights of missing persons, and family members rightly ask ‘is the government capable of fulfilling the rights of missing persons or not’, a question that remains with no proper answer.

‘You’re working, but we’re not happy with the achievements. For 20 years I don’t know anything about my five missing relatives. ‘- Halil Ujkani, a family member from Mitrovica

In this regard, the responsible institutions should:

  • Build up the necessary mechanisms as soon as possible to ensure compliance with the obligations of the London Summit Declaration and The Hague Framework Plan – with a clear plan and budget for each agreed point;
  • Find ways to obtain reliable information about the remaining locations in both Kosovo and Serbia, leading to the fate of the missing;
  • Increase the level of engagement through better inter-institutional cooperation and more effective communication about achievements and setbacks;
  • Specialized institutions such as the Ombudsman and the CDHRF should take the necessary steps to provide information on the failure of government to address the issue of missing persons and to refer them to appropriate institutions;
  • At the same time, the families of missing persons should make more use of mechanisms such as the Courts and the Ombudsman to report cases where their fundamental rights have been violated.

‘The Missing Persons Resource Center remains committed to enlightening the fate of missing persons and will use every opportunity available in Kosovo and internationally to raise its voice until the last person is found.’ Bajram Qerkinaj and Milorad Trifunovic, co-founders of the MPRC

CONFERENCE COMMUNIQUÉ

CONFERENCE ON THE OCCASION OF MARKING THE 30TH OF AUGUST,

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE VICTIMS OF ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES

“what with the (un)accounted for?!”

27 August 2019, Emerald Hotel, Pristina

‘When families of the missing persons work together across all communities in enlightening the fate of their loved ones, it’s only then when they’ll be able to get the full attention from the national governments and the international community.’ The MPRC has reached the level of trust of families only because it manages to address the issue of the missing persons by bringing together the families of the missing from all different ethnic or religious backgrounds and act jointly.

Families of the missing persons are grateful to institutions for solving over 70% of missing persons’ cases, but while understanding the complexities involved, they remain concerned with the lack of progress made since then in finding the remaining missing persons. The last 5-6 years are largely considered as a negative trend in institutional efforts in enlightening the fate of the missing persons. The issue of the missing persons during this period has been largely addressed by the international community, while the national institutions continue to face difficulties in collaboration at all levels, in working with families, inter-institutionally and at regional, cross-border level cooperation. Politicization of the issue of the missing persons must be avoided at all cost, and governments must be held accountable at all times.

The following pending issues are a reminder of commitments and obligations that have yet to be fulfilled:   

  1. The persistent gap in implementation of the obligations and commitments stemming from the joint recommendations of the Conference of 30th August 2017 concerning the establishment and functionalization of the Task Force on Missing Persons; and of the joint declaration of the London Summit of 2018;  
  2. The ‘Right to Know’ is an elementary right of fundamental importance to the families of the missing persons. Families of the missing demand for greater transparency and to be kept informed in regular basis, even when there’s no progress made. The current level of transparency and information sharing is of concern as families must still ‘chase’ the institutions for any information regarding the missing persons;
  3. Most of municipalities still lack any initiative or plans in addressing the needs of the missing persons’ families;
  4. There are still cases when bodies of missing persons have been verified, but are yet to be released to the families. The promise of the Institute of Forensic Medicine to release the two verified bodies kept in the Morgue of Pristina must be fulfilled with no further delays;
  5. Lack of inter-institutional cooperation has already resulted in suspension of substantial EU funding aimed at enlightening the fate of the missing persons. Kosovo is in no position to afford such loss of support and funding, especially when concerning the missing persons, knowing that the lack of progress in this area also affects Kosovo’s aspirations to join the EU.  

Its issues like this, mostly of technical nature and easily solvable that result in loss of trust of families of the missing in the willingness of the responsible institutions to address the issue of the missing persons comprehensively.

The MPRC remains committed and will follow closely the developments and flag the gaps such as these at every given opportunity locally and internationally, until fully addressed by the responsible institutions.

News

MISSING PERSONS RESOURCE CENTER

CONFERENCE ON THE OCCASION OF MARKING THE 30TH OF AUGUST, THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE VICTIMS OF ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES

The conflict in Kosovo in the late 1990s led to tens of thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands of civilians being displaced from their homes.  However, to this day, victims’ rights have not been addressed in a satisfactory manner. To date, 1,653 persons out of the 6,024 persons reported missing between 1998 and 2000, still remain unaccounted for.

On 27 August 2019, the NGO “Missing Persons Resource Center” MPRC with the support of its partners, is organizing the Annual Conference on the occasion of marking the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, with an aim to raise the public awareness in support to the process of enlightening the fate of missing persons.

The conference findings and conclusions will be disseminated to all relevant parties and wider public with an aim of identifying opportunities for future joint action and collaboration in enlightening the fate of the missing persons.

The conference is fully funded and supported by the MPRC key strategic partners: the British Embassy in Kosovo through UNDP Kosovo and the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo through KUSA Kosovo.