AI INDEX: EUR 70/009/2004 1 April 2004
Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo)
The legacy of past human rights abuses
1.1.2 The Office for Missing Persons and Forensics
Overall responsibility "for all aspects of investigations into missing persons" lies with the UNMIK Office for Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF), now located within the UNMIK Department of Justice. The OFMP also has "overall supervisory and coordination responsibility for the CivPol Missing Persons Unit (MPU) dealing with the historically missing persons".(6)
The OMPF's current priority is the exhumation and examination of grave sites, and the return of positively identified bodies to their families for burial, (as well as the reburial of unidentified bodies). Following the return of the identified body to the family for burial, the case is then considered closed, and responsibility for any further investigation passes to the Central Criminal Investigation Unit (CCIU) within UNMIK police.
Although the lack of adequate facilities in the office of the medical examiner may have delayed the process of post-mortem forensic analysis, Amnesty International considers that following the establishing of the OMPF, some progress is now being made in the exhumation and identification process - in contrast with the investigative process, which remains to be seriously addressed by UNMIK Police. The identification process has been aided by DNA analysis by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
According to the OMPF on 4 February 2004, 5,041 persons are recorded as missing on their Consolidated List of Missing Persons. Of these, 1,391 cases have been closed. In the majority of these cases, closure indicates that the body has been returned to the family for burial, although in a few cases, the person has been found alive, or the case was found to be a duplicate. These cases include mortal remains exhumed in both Serbia and in Kosovo. OMPF reported that a total of 643 mortal remains and 246 incomplete bodies had by February 2004 been exhumed of which 442 bodies and 177 incomplete bodies had been exhumed in 2003. Of the total exhumed, there were 488 cases of identification of mortal remains of which 452 had been returned to the families with the remaining 36 awaiting return.
On 26 June 2002, following extensive lobbying by the Coordination Council of Kosovo Albanian Associations of Families of Missing and Kidnapped Persons, the Kosovo Assembly agreed to create a Kosovo Parliamentary Commission on Missing and Kidnapped Persons. The commission, formed in October 2002, was set up to: propose legislation to parliament; to coordinate pressure on behalf of the presidency, parliament and the government; and to advise a Governmental Commission on Missing Persons, which was set up in 2003. It is uncertain at this stage what the mandate and powers of this body will be, but it is thought that it may coordinate pressure on the Serbian authorities.
On 19 April 2003 representatives of the Association of Families of Missing and Kidnapped Kosovo Serbs attended a meeting of the Kosovo Parliamentary Commission for Missing and Kidnapped Persons at the invitation of Flora Brovina. Randjel Nojkiæ, the Commission's deputy head and a member of the Serb Povratak coalition, stated: "For the first time ever, Kosovo Serbs and ethnic Albanians discussed this problem together. For the first time ever, Pristina heard the other side of the story, the Serbian side."
Amnesty International considers that the continued suffering of the relatives of the "disappeared" in being denied the knowledge of the fate of their loved one amounts to a violation of their right under Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.
Amnesty International continues to be concerned about:
- the fate of some 3,000 ethnic Albanians believed to have been arrested by Serb police and paramilitary forces between 1998 and July 1999;
- the failure of the authorities to open investigations that will lead to bringing the perpetrators to justice;
- the lack of progress made in opening investigations into the estimated 1,200 cases of missing Serbs, Roma and members of other minority groups, believed to have been abducted by the Kosovo Liberation Army, and other members of the ethnic Albanian community.