30 August 2023
The EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák, the Head of EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative, Tomáš Szunyog, and the Head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Giovanni Pietro Barbano, call for tangible progress in determining the fate of the 1,616 Missing Persons, who are still unaccounted for in Kosovo, and fully acknowledge the right of Missing Persons’ families to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones.
“The Joint Declaration on Missing Persons was endorsed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in May 2023. A lot of work needs to be done by Kosovo and Serbia to ensure the full implementation of the respective commitments in the field of Missing Persons and to strengthen cooperation in identifying burial sites and executing excavations,” the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák said. He added that the Declaration aims at supporting the work and efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to facilitate the Parties’ cooperation on Missing Persons. It also envisages the establishment of a Joint Commission chaired by the European Union and observed by the ICRC.
Extending his support to the families who are still waiting to find out what happened to their loved ones, the Head of EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative, Tomáš Szunyog, highlighted the importance of ensuring that the voice of Missing Persons’ families is heard. “To put family members at the forefront of this discussion and to raise awareness among the public of this sensitive issue, the EU funded a successful project implemented by the Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo, together with Kosovo 2.0, which also resulted in a publicly available report focused on the challenges in finding missing persons. In addition, the EU also provided a series of training courses aimed at building the capacities of the staff of the Kosovo Institute of Forensic Medicine, a key institution in shedding light on the fate of missing persons, and procured equipment necessary for its operations.”
The Head of Mission of EULEX, Giovanni Pietro Barbano, noted that Mission experts continue to work together with their Kosovo counterparts at the Institute of Forensic Medicine to determine the fate of Missing Persons by offering expertise and advice in the identification of clandestine graves and the exhumation and identification of missing persons. “From the beginning of EULEX’s mandate to date, EULEX has conducted 746 field operations to locate missing persons, including 200 exhumations. The remains of 492 individuals have been identified, including 339 Missing Persons. We remain committed to continuing this work and to provide answers to the families of Missing Persons.”