ON THE OCCASION OF MARKING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN RIGHTS
“the issue of Missing Persons at crossroads”
ORGANIZED BY MISSING PERSONS RESOURCE CENTER
Monday, 9 December 2019, Pristina
Today, on 9 December 2019, Missing Persons Resource Center, MPRC, with support of British Embassy in Kosovo and American Embassy in Kosovo, organized a roundtable discussion “ The Issue of the Missing Persons on a crossroad” with family members of Missing persons, panelists from government, Institute of Ombudsperson and CDHRF, on the occasion of marking of the International Day of Human Rights.
The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the government’s achievements in implementing the joint declaration signed at the Fifth Western Balkans Summit in London in July 2018, within the Berlin process, where all 14 leaders signed a Joint Declaration on regional cooperation and good neighborly relations, war crimes and missing persons. As part of the Joint Declaration, Western Balkans leaders have pledged, inter alia, “to provide an impartial and effective investigation into missing persons cases in accordance with international human rights standards and to resolve as many missing persons cases as possible” over the next five years.” The commitment to implement the Joint Declaration was further confirmed at the 6th Summit on the Western Balkans, held in Poznan in July 2019.
The Declaration, signed in London, was followed by the signing of the Framework Plan in The Hague in November 2018 by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, who have formally pledged to work together as a regional missing group (MPG) to promote regional co-operation in addressing the issue of missing persons from the conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
It was concluded that despite the agreements reached, the rights of missing persons and their family members are still being violated through:
- Continuous violation of the right to know the whereabouts of missing persons and the right to dignified burial;
- Denial of the right to apply to the International Court of Human Rights in The Hague;
- Delays in addressing the requests of family members of missing persons;
- Delays in the adoption of the new Law on Missing Persons for 3 years, which would slightly alleviate the situation of the families of missing persons.
However, the roundtable failed to draw concrete conclusions on the key question ‘what has the Kosovo government done to implement the obligations of the London Summit Declaration and The Hague Framework Plan’, which suggests that in reality no serious work has been done on this direction. Failure to treat these obligations seriously is a poor treatment of the rights of missing persons, and family members rightly ask ‘is the government capable of fulfilling the rights of missing persons or not’, a question that remains with no proper answer.
‘You’re working, but we’re not happy with the achievements. For 20 years I don’t know anything about my five missing relatives. ‘- Halil Ujkani, a family member from Mitrovica
In this regard, the responsible institutions should:
- Build up the necessary mechanisms as soon as possible to ensure compliance with the obligations of the London Summit Declaration and The Hague Framework Plan – with a clear plan and budget for each agreed point;
- Find ways to obtain reliable information about the remaining locations in both Kosovo and Serbia, leading to the fate of the missing;
- Increase the level of engagement through better inter-institutional cooperation and more effective communication about achievements and setbacks;
- Specialized institutions such as the Ombudsman and the CDHRF should take the necessary steps to provide information on the failure of government to address the issue of missing persons and to refer them to appropriate institutions;
- At the same time, the families of missing persons should make more use of mechanisms such as the Courts and the Ombudsman to report cases where their fundamental rights have been violated.
‘The Missing Persons Resource Center remains committed to enlightening the fate of missing persons and will use every opportunity available in Kosovo and internationally to raise its voice until the last person is found.’ Bajram Qerkinaj and Milorad Trifunovic, co-founders of the MPRC