Serbia "committed to missing persons' issue"

Serbia is absolutely committed to finding a solution to the missing persons' issue and not a single body or individual has ever done anything to prevent it.

Source: Tanjug

This is what President of the Commission on Missing Persons Veljko Odalović told Tanjug ahead of the conference on the matter due to take place in Mostar on Friday.

Odalović said that during the conference, the presidents of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) and Montenegro should sign a declaration on the role of the state in the search for a solution to the missing persons' issue in cases of armed conflicts and violation of human rights, adding that the declaration should encourage others to take on a responsible and professional approach to the problem.

The declaration will be signed by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić, Croatian President Ivo Josipović, Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency Bakir Izetbegović and Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović in the course of the conference to mark the International Day of the Disappeared observed on August 30.

“The document should contribute to improvement of the general situation and restoration of trust because the solution to the fate of missing persons is an important prerequisite for any progress, let alone reconciliation in the region. For as long as 11,000 people are still recorded as missing and there are hundreds of thousands of people who are directly interested in the search for a solution to the issue, we cannot expect a more serious stabilization,” Odalović said.

The authorities insist on establishment of responsibility for crimes, Odalović said and underscored that Serbia exchanges all information it obtains with relevant bodies, courts and the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office.

According to him, this is a serious problem in the territory of former Yugoslavia as the number of missing persons varies, from 1,700 people in Kosovo and Metohija and 2,500 people in Croatia, while the rest of them were reported missing in BiH.

Serbia and Croatia have signed an inter-governmental agreement and have a mechanism to solve this problem, Odalović said. The working group in charge of missing persons is operating within the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he noted and added that Serbia is currently in the preparatory stage for signing the protocol with BiH.

“Serbia is searching for its citizens gone missing in all areas of former Yugoslavia and it also has a legitimate right to demand a closure for the issue concerning the fate of missing persons whose families were banished from their homes,” he said.

In the territory of KiM, working groups are investigating the fate of 529 Serb and other non-Albanian citizens reported missing by their families, and not a single remain has been identified this year, Odalović said and recalled that several days ago, Serbian authorities delivered 16 bodies at Merdare which were exhumed from the grave site in the village of Rudnica.

He also announced that 18 more bodies will be delivered in the next ten days, which shows a responsible attitude of a responsible government.

Odalović noted that another serious problem lies in the fact that 5,000 bodies or bodily parts are still kept in morgues in Tuzla, Banja Luka, Priština, Sarajevo and elsewhere, adding that these remains have not been identified. This issue is being tackled in cooperation with the International Commission on Missing Persons, he said.

“We did not get a single piece of information from the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army and their archives concerning the fate of these people. The issues of the court and the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes are exceptionally important, as well as the answer to questions such as whether the process would produce the answers, the developments concerning the Yellow House, the number of people who were taken to Albania, whether there was any trafficking involved and the location of the remains - these are all the answers we expect to get from others,” he specified.

He underscored that Serbia opened the archives and that over 2,000 documents were handed over to Prišstina alone.

The declaration on missing persons should add a new quality to the search because the leaders of the countries in the region would call on their governments and authorities to attach even more attention to this matter, Odalović said.

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