In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the process of accounting for missing persons has been a remarkable success, more than 74 per cent of the 31,000 people who were missing at the end of the conflict have been found using a modern, rights-based, rule-of-law approach.
However, more than 7,000 persons remain unaccounted for. Their families live in daily anguish, not knowing the fate of a loved one.
In terms of accounting for the missing, Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved more than any other country in the world. BIH must ensure that this successful process is sustained, and it must continue to uphold the rights of families of the missing, regardless of national, ethnic or religious affiliation.
Accounting for the missing is not simply a humanitarian option, it is a legal requirement. States have a duty to investigate the fate and whereabouts of missing people, including the circumstances of their disappearance. If governments ignore these responsibilities, they undermine the rule of law that protects everyone – from the most secure to the most vulnerable.
Finding and identifying missing persons from the 1992-1995 war must be supported by an efficient judiciary that is capable of convicting those responsible for war crimes. This will ensure a transparent and truthful account of what happened.
Accounting for the missing has been indispensable in the struggle for justice; to respond to lies with truth; to confront a monstrous crime with the steady, strong and certain application of the rule of law.
The large-scale use of cutting-edge scientific methods to identify missing persons based on DNA is unique to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The combination of an efficient judiciary with the application of DNA-based human identification has helped to establish a historical record based on scientific facts and judicial conclusions. This has reduced the scope for manipulation and historical revisionism.
Through the establishment of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and other initiatives, the United States has shown its strong and continuing support for the State-level, non-discriminatory missing persons process in BIH.
The US government believes that resolution of the missing persons issue, based on strong scientific evidence and based on rule-of-law principles is an investment in the future and an investment in peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.