News 30 Aug 17

‘Day of the Disappeared’ Commemorated Across Balkans

Events to mark the International Day of the Disappeared in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia sought to raise awareness that 12,000 people are still missing from the 1990s wars.

Dzana Brkanic, Sven Milekic, Maja Zivanovic, Perparim Isufi
Sarajevo, Zagreb, Belgrade, Pristina

Flowers were laid and candles lit across the former Yugoslavia at events to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared on Wednesday in a bid to highlight the fact that the bodies of 12,000 of the estimated 40,000 missing persons from the 1990s wars have still not been found.

In Sarajevo, missing persons’ relatives and local residents released black balloons into the sky in commemoration, while in the north-western Bosnian town of Prijedor, 620 black balloons with names of all the missing persons from the area were released.

On the balloons was written the question: “Where is he/she?”

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 32,000 people were reported missing as a result of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the search for some 7,000 of them continues.

Some Bosnian families have become frustrated by the lack of progress in the hunt for their relatives.

Milena Kokot told BIRN that for the past 25 years, she has been seeking the remains of her brother Dragan and father Gojko, who were killed in Sarajevo in May 1992.

She appealed for people to come forward with information about potential graves.

“I am asking people to help us, to stop keeping silent, to tell us where their bones are,” she said.

In Pristina, the authorities called on the international community to put pressure on Belgrade to shed light on the fate of around 1,600 people who have been missing since the conflict ended in 1999.

Locals and missing persons’ families laid flowers in front of a memorial dedicated to missing persons in front of the parliament building, while people released 18 white balloons with question marks symbolising those who disappeared.

Bajram Qerkini, head of the Association of Missing Persons’ Families, said the process of finding their burial sites has “stagnated” and accused Kosovo institutions of not raising the issue at the highest levels.

In March this year, the Kosovo government’s missing persons commission urged Serbia to disclose information about the locations of mass graves, claiming that Belgrade’s army is keeping important documents secret.

In Serbia, relatives of missing persons and war victims walked to the monument in Tasmajdan Park in Belgrade commemorating those who died in Yugoslavia’s conflicts and laid flowers, as well as lighting candles in St. Mark’s Church.

Serbian officials marked the International Day of the Disappeared by accusing neighbouring countries of a lack of will to cooperate over the issue.

The head of the Serbian government’s Commission for Missing Persons, Veljko Odalovic, told public broadcaster RTS that there was a serious delay in the process of finding missing persons from the conflict in Kosovo in 1999.

Odalovic said that “there is no willingness in Pristina to share information from the archives of the former Kosovo Liberation Army and the archives of international organisations that were present at the time in Kosovo”.

Serbia says it is still searching for 540 people who went missing in Kosovo during the war.

In Croatia, families of missing persons in the eastern city of Osijek laid flowers and lit candles at a common grave for victims of war at the city cemetery.

Croatian War Veterans’ Minister Tomo Medved said after the ceremony that the process of finding the missing persons has been hampered by a lack of cooperation from Serbia in terms of providing information.

“In recent months we signed agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro on exchanging data on missing persons, and we expect to do the same with Serbia,” Medved said.

The Croatian authorities are searching for 1,533 people who are still missing from the 1990s war.

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