Over half of the more than 5,200 people reported missing in Kosovo after the 1998-99 conflict have been accounted for, mostly through identification of their remains, but concerns for those still missing is one of the most pressing issues in the ethnic Albanian-majority Serbian province, the United Nations mission there said today.
“It is of the highest priority to find the missing persons and identify the bodies,” UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Director of Justice Albert Moskowitz reported. The UN has run the province ever since Western Forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid atrocities committed in ethnic fighting.
“Up to date, there are around 530 individuals whose remains have not yet been identified. To clarify the fate of the missing is a long and sensitive process and it is of special importance for the families affected. It is also essential to find the missing in order to help stabilize the region,” Mr. Moskowitz added.
A total of 5,206 people were reported missing after the conflict. By the end of last month, 2,150 persons (Kosovo Albanians, Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic minorities) where still listed missing, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
From 2002, the UN Office on Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF) succeeded in reducing the number by over 50 per cent. OMPF was created in 2002 as a division in the UNMIK Department of Justice. Today, the office consists of 55 staff members who work to clarify the fate of the missing persons.
As of 1 December, 1,807 missing persons have been pronounced dead and have had their remains returned to their families. In addition, about 100 missing persons have been identified, but the families have chosen not to accept the bodies until other members of their families or communities are found so that they can be buried together.
OMPF has developed a Memory Project to create a public record of the experiences of the families of the missing. The first initiative used theatre to explore the painful issues facing the families and was compiled into the publication Voices. The second, an oral histories initiative, video-records interviews with the families to build a historical archive.