Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Report Raises Awareness of Bosnia's Missing

IWPR article highlights efforts to locate the thousands who remain unaccounted for nearly two decades after the Bosnian war.
By IWPR staff

Associations representing relatives of people who disappeared during the Bosnian war say a report by IWPR on the subject has helped to draw attention to their continued struggle to find loved ones sixteen years after the conflict.

They said articles based on personal stories, such as the one published by IWPR on May 25, are the best way of reminding the public about the suffering the families of the missing are still going through.

According to data gathered by the International Commission on Missing Persons, ICMP, between eight and ten thousand people are still unaccounted for in Bosnia, despite the considerable efforts of the ICMP, Bosnia’s state Institute for Missing Persons, IMP, and many small non-governmental organisations to locate and identify the remains of those who perished during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

In his article, Thousands of Bosnians Still Missing, IWPR’s reporter Ajdin Kamber conveyed the ongoing agony of the families of those who have been vainly trying to find the remains of their loved ones for so many years. He also pointed out at the need for the government to get more involved in this process and help families of the disappeared in their mission.

“We view journalists as our friends because they help shed some light on this very important issue. It is necessary for the people in Bosnia and the government institutions to be reminded from time to time of the pain the families of the missing are going through,“ said Josip Dreznjak, president of Association of Croat Victims Grabovica 93.

“I believe much more can be done in finding the missing. More pressure has to be applied on [state and entity] governments so that they show more willingness to deal with this issue, and then there will be results.”

Milan Mandic, president of Association of Imprisoned and Missing Persons from Republika Srpska, RS, agrees with Dreznjak that media reports about the disappeared assist their families signifficantly.

“We believe writing about missing persons is very important. I like the fact that Ajdin Kamber’s article is based on personal stories of the relatives of those who perished in the war, because that gives the whole problem a human dimension. This is the best way of reminding the public about the suffering we are still going through,” he said.

Mandic, who lost his father in 1992, says he’s been looking for him unsuccessfully for the past nineteen years.

“My father did not disappear in a forest, but on a sidewalk in the centre of Sarajevo. I want to know what happened to him. Writing about this can help us, the families of the missing, because it raises public awareness and draws the politicians’ attention to this important issue,” he said.

Mandic believes politicians could do much more to help determine the fate of the missing, but are not willing to do so.

“There are many people in the government who were in power during the war. Some of them have the information about the locations of mass graves and know where many of the missing persons are, but they are not willing to share that information with the families. Until they are forced to start talking, we will remain helpless,” he said.

IMP director Amor Masovic applauded IWPR’s decision to write about the missing, pointing out that media can help a lot by constantly reminding all key stakeholders that, despite all the progress, this issue is far from solved.

“People who are still looking for their missing relatives are the ones who have lost most in the Bosnian war. They are being remembered by a wider society only when a new mass grave is found, when some remains have been discovered, or on the International Missing Persons Day. That’s why it is so important that journalist write about this issue more often, so that these people don’t feel forgotten,” Masovic said.

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