Both civilians and combatants go missing in armed conflicts. The fate of soldiers on the battlefield or in captivity may be unknown. Families separated by the conflict may face the anguish of not knowing what happened to their loved ones. Such families face the pain of ongoing uncertainty and are unable to seek closure on their grief.
International Humanitarian Law requires authorities to take all possible measures to ensure the fate of the missing is known and their families informed.
The issue of missing persons should be depoliticised and considered as a humanitarian problem and dealt with without discrimination as to the ethnic origin of the missing.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates that there are still almost 15 000 missing persons in the Western Balkans.
The Parliamentary Assembly and its Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population have carried out work in the past on missing persons in the Balkans and the South Caucasus. This work needs to be updated and brought together with information on missing persons from all Europe’s conflicts. The more time that passes in trying to find these persons, the less likely it is that they will ever be found.
The Assembly needs to look at the steps being taken, the progress achieved and make recommendations to member states on what still needs to be done to solve the outstanding cases of the missing and ensure that persons who go missing in the future have more chance of being found and found quickly.