Geneva Roundtable on Missing Persons as a Result of the Conflict in Kosovo
Geneva - 30 June, 2017: On 29 and 30 June 2017, members of the Working Group on Persons Unaccounted for in Relation to the Events in Kosovo, representatives of UNMIK, the ICRC, and the UN Working Group on Missing Persons and Enforced Disappearances met in Geneva to identify challenges and a way forward to resolving the whereabouts of the 1,658 missing persons in Kosovo.
The roundtable was opened with remarks by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) in Kosovo and Head of UNMIK, Zahir Tanin. In his opening statement, the High Commissioner welcomed participants and underlined the importance of the event as a step towards taking decisive action for the families of people who remain missing following the conflict. He emphasised that the families have a right to know, a right to truth, and a right to justice and stated that “This is our solemn duty, and it is right and urgent that all parties make the extra effort to ensure the fate and whereabouts of every missing person is at last known.”
Following the High Commissioner, SRSG Tanin highlighted that “the burden of war affects everyday life for the survivors of war, and for the new generations who are forced to grow up in a society shaped by war, surrounded by the symbols and narratives of conflict.” He reaffirmed UNMIK’s commitment to support the search for the missing and highlighted the importance of bringing new momentum to the process. Noting that the process of finding the missing was not only a humanitarian imperative, but a human rights one as well, he welcomed the personal engagement of the High Commissioner and his support for decisive actions to find those who remain missing.
As a result of the conflict in Kosovo in 1998-1999, more than 6,000 persons went missing. Since March 2004, the Working Group on Persons Unaccounted for in Relation to the Events in Kosovo has been providing support for the process of clarifying the fate and whereabouts of persons unaccounted for and keeping their families informed accordingly. As of May 2017, 1,658 persons remain missing in Kosovo.
During two days of discussions, participants emphasised the need to re-energise the Working Group’s efforts to shed light on the whereabouts of the missing and identified the following steps to move forward:
• Strengthen the involvement and participation of missing persons family representatives;
• Intensify efforts to obtain better access to the archives of local, national and international actors;
• Discuss, before the end of the year, in consultation with OHCHR and ICRC, the progress that has been accomplished since this convening.
Furthermore, UNMIK will continue to support the Multi-Ethnic Resource Centre on Missing Persons and make use of newly-available technologies in order to support progress in identifying the missing.
For more information please contact:
Ms. Sanam Dolatshahi, Spokesperson, UNMIK