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2010 | Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNGA HRC)

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WG) was invited to Bosnia and Herzegovina to learn about the efforts made to address cases of enforced disappearances and missing persons. The WG shows in its report that a lot of progress has been made in the search and identification of the disappeared, reparations for victims and the prosecution of the crimes. However, according to the WG a great deal remains to be done to achieve the right to the truth, the right to justice and the right to reparation for the disappeared and their families. A central issue is that not all victims and all groups are treated equally and without discrimination of any kind. The WG recommends that equality be conscientiously promoted and protected in activities.

Although a lot of effort has been made and many success achieved the WG notes several shortcomings in determining the fate and whereabouts of the missing persons. In particular the Central Records of Missing Persons (CEN) had not been completed at the publication of this report. (According to the International Commission for Missing Persons, the CEN was ‘completed’ in February 2011. However as of June 2014 verification of the records had not reached finalization which continues to delay full implementation of the Law on Missing Persons.) Finally, the number of prosecutors working on exhumations is extremely low and those that are have limited  resources and staff.

To ensure the right to reparations a lot remains to be done. In Part VI, section B, the WG recommends prioritization of the establishment of the Fund for Support to Families of Missing Persons. It urges the state to take steps to ensure that all relatives of disappeared persons have access to benefits and other measures of social support, to choose a date for the commemorization of the missing, and to ensure that apologies are appropriately issued.

In Part VI section C the WG acknowledges the progress made to ensure a right to justice through domestic legislation (by bringing it into conformity with international law). However, domestic criminal legislation still needs to be improved and the WG makes 5 recommendations in this area. The WG also states that local courts are not well prepared to prosecute and try perpetrators of international crimes and recommends strengthening of their capacities. Finally, the WG emphasizes the importance of giving greater centrality to victims’ needs in the post-war setting and makes 7 recommendations including free legal aid, better systems for keeping people informed about the progress of their cases and appropriate training of public servants and all those who deal with victims’ needs.