Volunteers of the Red Cross in Bosnia and 18 associations of families have on Thursday distributed 3,500 black balloons with the question ‘where are they?’ written on them to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.
The balloons represent the heavy burden of uncertainty the families of those missing since the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia experience daily.
Citizens in Sarajevo showed their solidarity with the families by taking over the balloons and carrying them around in a symbolic gesture.
The evening before, several key locations in Sarajevo, such as the iconic City Hall, were lit up with the question ‘Where are they’ as a reminder of the needs and rights of the families of the missing.
According to the Red Cross International Committee, there are still about 6,700 people being searched for in Bosnia, and the process of searching for them has stagnated in the past few years.
The Committee is to provide additional support to accelerate the process throughout the next five years.
“Our strategy foresees a more intensive search within international archives for new information on the location of mass graves, providing psychosocial support to families of those missing, strengthening local forensic capacities and other activities,” said the head of the International Red Cross Committee’s delegation to Bosnia, Zeljko Filipovic.
Accelerating the search for the missing and supporting their families, however, also requires a sincere will and joint effort in Bosnia and in the entire region. According to international and domestic law, families have the right to know what happened to their loved ones and it is the states that are responsible for providing answers.
“All the actors involved, especially the governments in the entire region, must increase their efforts, as the current situation is not enough for these obligations to be fulfilled,” Filipovic said.
The Red Cross has been involved in the search for missing persons in Bosnia since the war.
Only in 2017, more than 5,000 family members of those missing benefitted from 16 Red Cross psychological support programmes.
As a neutral and independent organisation, the Red Cross has access to international archives, and has throughout the past two years analysed more than 50,000 pages of documentation connected to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina and forwarded any relevant information to competent bodies for further analysis and potential action.
The organisation is also to financially support students in Bosnia who are researching the issue of missing persons.
The marking of the Day of the Disappeared was also attended by members of the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, as well as by the head of the Institute for Missing persons in Bosnia, Amor Masovic.