Four countries sign Declaration on missing persons

MOSTAR - Leaders of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) and Montenegro signed in Mostar on Friday the Declaration on missing persons which aims to encourage the search for missing persons and define the responsibilities and role of states in the search for a solution to the problem.

Four countries sign Declaration on missing persons

The Declaration was signed by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, Chair of the BiH Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic and Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic.

By signing the document, the states confirmed their commitment to the search for a solution to the issue of people gone missing in armed conflicts or violation of human rights, in the context of the obligation of the state to ensure lasting peace and improve cooperation and reconciliation in democratic societies which support and protect human rights.

The gathering on the search for the missing persons was opened by Chairman of the International Commission on Missing Persons Thomas Miller, who said that around 70 percent of the 40,000 people gone missing in armed conflicts in the territory of former Yugoslavia during the '90s have been exhumed and identified until now.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic specified that 11,000 people in the region are still reported as missing, noting that the list of the Commission on Missing Persons of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, around 1,751 Serbs are still reported as missing in Croatia.

He underscored that Serbia will never renounce the search for the missing or the requests for prosecution and sanctions against responsible individuals.

For the problem of missing persons, there can be no obsolesce that entails oblivion, Nikolic said and underscored that Serbia will do all it can to find missing persons in the territory of Serbia but it expect others to do the same.

He expressed the hope that the signing of the Declaration on missing persons ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared observed on August 30 would serve as an additional encouragement for the four countries in the region to get rid of the moral burden.

Maybe others worldwide would follow our example, Nikolic said.

By solving this complex problem, we would give a huge and important contribution to the strengthening of reconciliation, as well as bilateral and regional cooperation between our countries, the Serbian president said.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said the issue of missing persons is a humanitarian priority for the Croatian government.

"My thoughts today are with the families of the missing persons and we have a moral and legal obligation to settle that issue and finally end their pain," he noted.

"It is an issue of truth and justice," Josipovic pointed out, adding he believes the problem concerning the people who disappeared in 1991 and 1992 could be resolved through good cooperation between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Head of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic stated that the fate of 22,000 people gone missing in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been uncovered out of the total of 30,000, with the remaining 8,000 are still filed as missing.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is dedicated to finding those missing persons and a state institute has been established in Sarajevo to tackle the issue.

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic pointed out that the number of missing in Montenegro has two figures, proving that Montenegro had kept itself out of the war.

"Our signature indicates that we are prepared to intensify our activities meant to locate the missing people," he said, stressing that every crime should be punished.

OSCE official Gerard Stoudmann complimented the countries that signed the declarations on missing persons for acknowledging the responsibility countries have in searching for them.

This leads to normal relations, return of trust and paves the way for the future, he remarked. Facing the problems of the past is the beginning of the reconciliation process and opens the way to a common European future, he said.

President of the Regional Coordination of the Families of Missing Persons from the Former Yugoslavia Ljiljana Alvir called on the signatories of the declaration to implement the document, underscoring that it is high time to put aside disputes with other countries.

Representatives of the families of missing persons, including members of the Coordination of Associations of Families from the Former Yugoslavia, and officials from the international community attended the signing ceremony.

The gathering was organised ahead of the International Day of the Disappeared observed on August 30.

Ahead of the signing of the declaration on missing persons in Mostar, Nikolic stated that the Serbian government agrees with the text of the document completely.

The document should serve as the start of a global initiative which would gather all countries facing the problem of people gone missing in clashes, and the document states that the unsolved fate of people gone missing in wars further prolongs the suffering of the victims' families, which is why the problem needs to be tackled in an efficient and responsible way.

Photo Tanjug, Z. Zestic
Photo Tanjug Video, camera operator Davorin Pavlović