More than 23 years since the armed conflict in Kosovo ended, the families of as more than 1,600 missing persons are still waiting for answers about the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.
These families are left in limbo, stuck in the past, unable to either grieve or plan or look at the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the burden they had to carry for a long time now.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has, as always, stood by the families of missing persons by providing them with psychosocial and other support, in an attempt to alleviate their suffering. Yet it is the support and empathy of society as a whole, authorities and their communities in particular, that is critically important to help them deal with the pain.
On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the Head of Mission of the ICRC in Kosovo, Mr. Agim Gashi, said: “The families of missing persons have been waiting for news on the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones for too many years now. As in the past, this year as well, we call on society at large and the authorities to think again what else they can do to console the families of missing persons in a situation aggravated by the pandemic.”
On a positive note, Mr. Gashi acknowledged the tangible progress achieved in recovering new gravesites over the past year and commended the authorities for their ongoing work, announcing that the whereabouts of 13 people were traced this year. “It is crucial to utilize the contributions provided by all the parties and stakeholders involved in the process, to achieve better results,” Mr. Gashi said.
In line with international humanitarian law, families of missing people have the Right to Know what has happened to their loved ones, and the States are obliged to provide them with answers and support. As always, the ICRC stands ready to support the authorities in fulfilling their responsibilities in this regard and urges them to put the exclusively humanitarian issue of missing persons at the forefront.
On the other hand, it is high time for anybody who may have information that could lead to the clarification or resolution of any case of a missing person to come forward. Time does not heal the agony of families of missing people, only answers do.