Friday, 21 February 2020

18th Sitting of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region

On 21 February, the members of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region considered the resolution of the issue of missing persons as the prerequisite for reconciliation in the region.

At the beginning of the sitting, Committee Chairman Miodrag Linta reminded the attending that the Committee had discussed the missing persons issue six months ago and concluded that it is the most important humanitarian issue and without finding a just solution to it is not possible to talk any normalization of relations, let alone reconciliation in the Western Balkans. Linta said that the resolution of the issue of missing persons of Serbian nationality on the territory of Former Yugoslavia is at a complete standstill, there have been no new developments nor is there political will for it, which he illustrated by the examples to address this issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo-Metohija. He said that the objective of today’s sitting is to assess the progress, if any, made in addressing this issue in the last six months, after which the Committee would address the relevant state authorities in its conclusions.

Veljko Odalovic, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and President of the Serbian Government’s Commission for Missing Persons, agreed that the search for the missing persons is at present at a serious standstill. Speaking of the number of identified in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo-Metohija, Odalovic said that the opening of archives is vital because there have been cases of identification of persons who were never in the missing persons records. The OSCE and NATO archives are a special challenge. Odalovic said that this is the Missing Persons Commission’s 25th year of operation and he hopes there would be an opportunity to talk about this before international organizations. He said that the Commission wishes to generate interest among the international organizations for the Serbian victims so as to keep them in the process and not let it be addressed at the bilateral level. He advocated drafting a single record of the Serbian victims concluding that the more results we have the better it would be for stabilization and rebuilding of trust.

The President of the Coordination of Serb Associations of Families of Missing Persons on the Territory of Former Yugoslavia Dr Dusko Celic said that the Coordination is comprised of 60 associations of families of missing persons on the territory of former Yugoslavia which are greatly frustrated by the fact that Serbia has no missing persons law and does not recognize the category of missing persons and their families He said that, in agreement with the Serbian President, the Coordination had drafted a model of legislation on the missing persons and the rights of their families and forwarded it to the President and Commission for Missing Persons. The Coordination suggested to legally address all the legal loopholes concerning the missing persons and their families especially in terms of property rights, and to resolve the capacity of the state authorities in charge of the issue, said Celic. The Coordination asks for justice for the Serbian victims, the state to do more to maintain the culture of memory and for more media attention for the issue.

Dragana Djukic, President of the Association of Families of Missing Persons “Suza” (Tear) from Belgrade, said that the hardest thing is to explain to the families how the process is going and why it is taking so long when they only want to find and bury their family. She said that the voice of the Serbian victims is faint and badly promoted and in the 22 years of its existence the Association has only had one opportunity to speak about the Serbian victims in the US Congress and never again.

Slobodanka Koldzic of the Association of Parents and Families of Detained and Missing Persons said that the Association insists on a resolution of the missing persons cases where the details of how they disappeared are known, especially the cases from 1991 and 1992 on the territory of Croatia. She appealed to the state authorities to insist in the international public and organizations that these cases be resolved and asked for the Military to get more involved in the compilation of data on the missing persons and the events surrounding their disappearance.

Following a debate, the Committee members unanimously adopted a number of conclusions to be forwarded to the relevant state institutions.

The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairman Miodrag Linta and attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Blaza Knezevic, Mirjana Dragas, Aleksandar Cotric, Marjana Maras, Milimir Vujadinovic, Goran Nikolic, Dragan Veljkovic, Doc. Dr Ivan Bauer and MA Jadranka Jovanovic.

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