7 July 2021 Seventh Sitting of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region

7 July 2021 Seventh Sitting of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Seventh Sitting of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region

At the sitting held on 7 July 2021, the members of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region were presented the activities of the Serbian Government’s Commission for Missing Persons on resolving the issues concerning the persons missing in the armed conflicts on the territory of former SFRY.

At the very beginning of the meeting, Committee Chairman Milimir Vujadinovic greeted the Serbian Government’s Commission for Missing Persons, relevant representatives from the Republic of Croatia, Republic of Srpska and the relevant institutions in the Republic of Serbia. The Chairman said that the central topic and objective of the sitting is to show the most important representatives of the state what Serbia has done as regards the issue of missing persons in the previous period. "The fact that 10,000 people have disappeared in the SFRY, i.e. that 10,000 families are looking for their members, tells us how important this topic is. Over 40% of that numbers are persons of Serbian nationality. That speaks about the scale and scope of the disaster that hit this people and this country", said Vujadinovic.

The Committee Chairman greeted the invited guests, stressing that the National Assembly House is the home of all Serbs from the region. Among the guests were the Serbian President’s special envoy for resolving the issue of missing persons in Croatia Veran Matic, War Crimes Prosecutor Snezana Stanojkovic, Head of the War Crimes Investigation Service Momcilo Stevanovic, President of the Serbian National Council and member of the Croatian Parliament Prof. Dr Milorad Pupovac and the head of the SNC Zagreb office Jovan Vlaovic. The Chairman also greeted the President of the Joint Council of Municipalities in Vukovar Srdjan Jeremic, Director of the Republic Centre for Research of War, War Crimes and Search for Missing Persons MA Milorad Kojic, Secretary of the Organisation of Families of Captured, Killed and Missing Soldiers and Civilians of the Republic of Srpska Isidora Graorac Strkic and associate Bojan Keleman, and the Director of the Secretariat for Displaced Persons and Migration of the Republic of Srpska Ljuba Nikolic.

The Committee Chairman also welcomed the representatives of the Security Information Agency Radivoje Milankov, Military Security Agency Lieutenant Colonel Nenad Spasic, Military Intelligence Agency Lieutenant Colonel Miroslav Veselinovic, as well as the independent advisor in the Directorate for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region Djordje Aleksic. The sitting was also attended by the President of the Veritas Documentation and Information Centre Savo Strbac, Serbian Red Cross expert Milica Bjelobaba, President of the Belgrade Association of Families of Missing and Killed Persons "Suza" (“Tear”) Dragana Djukic and the President of the Association of Parents and Families of Arrested, Captured and Missing Persons Mirjana Bozin and Slobodanka Koldzic.

The activities of the Serbian Government’s Commission for Missing Persons on resolving the issues concerning the persons missing in the armed conflicts on the territory of former SFRY were presented by Commission President and National Assembly Secretary General Veljko Odalovic. He said that the unresolved fate of, at this moment, another 9,996 people of all nationalities is the worst consequence of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. "That is a reason for concern, because three decades have passed since the first disappearances and that is a frustrating fact for the families and all those who are in any way involved in all of this, together with us", added the President of the Commission. He also said that regardless of how much has been done so far on this issue, it must not lose priority. Odalovic explained that the persons who disappeared in the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo-Metohija are most likely buried there, and what the region expects from Serbia when dealing with this issue is to take responsibility, although the responsibility lies not only on the Serbian side. He pointed out that, when approaching this issue, the engagement of everyone in the Commission is such that nationality is not a priority, the intention is to help, either with information or in any other was to clarify the fate of the missing persons. "We have an active role, good intentions and good will, and that is what sometimes puts us in a very delicate and difficult situation, despite the good intentions." He added that all relevant organisations and services are working on shedding light on the crimes, missing persons and undiscovered graves, but the inaction of the competent institutions in the region very often slows down this process. The President of the Commission also spoke about the legal framework with the region, which in the case of Croatia originated from the Dayton Accords, which insists on a new legal framework and which in the Commission's opinion would further slow down the resolution of the issue of missing persons. Odalovic went on to say that a Protocol on Cooperation was signed with Bosnia and Herzegovina as a continuation of the existing cooperation conducted based on conclusions from regional meetings of competent governmental bodies for missing persons. A special Protocol on Cooperation was signed with Montenegro, since Serbia and Montenegro were not parties in a conflict, allowing to establish ties and share information which significantly contributed to resolving the issue of missing and injured persons from the territory of Montenegro. Speaking of international cooperation, Odalovic highlighted the cooperation with two institutions as very important in this process – International Committee of the Red Cross and International Commission on Missing Persons, whose engagement the region often tries to marginalise.

Odalovic stated that the Berlin Process at the London Western Balkans Summit gave further impetus to resolving the issue of missing persons, where the emphasis was placed on reconciliation and resolving issues arising from the conflict in former Yugoslavia. He added that a Framework Plan was signed at the headquarters of the International Commission on Missing Persons in The Hague, by which the domestic institutions of the signatory countries established special groups for investigation into missing persons, unidentified persons and a database.

The President of the Commission presented the mechanism of the Working Group for persons missing on the territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metohija, which has so far resolved 75% of missing persons cases, i.e. the fate of 6,064 persons in this area.

Odalovic went on to say that the number of persons of Serbian nationality listed as missing according to the Commission’s records is 2,397, while another 1,654 persons of Serbian nationality are listed as missing in the Republic of Srpska. The President of the Commission then gave further information in the form of a panel presentation.

The presentation of the Commission’s activities was followed by a discussion, where the guests and Committee members presented their views on the issue.

Moving onto item 2 on the agenda, Committee Chairman Milimir Vujadinovic informed the members of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region the official visits he conducted from 19 to 24 May, to Mostar, Tirana, Shkodra and Podgorica, as well as the trip to Vukovar on 21 June 2021. The Chairman stated that the general impression from the trips was that, wherever the Serbian people do not have an official political institution, the situation in which they find themselves is extremely difficult. Also, the impression is that our compatriots from the region are focused on Serbia and on economic progress and political stability. That automatically means a better position of Serbs in the region.

The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairman Milimir Vujadinovic, and was attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Miodrag Linta, Milan Ilic, Aleksandar Markovic, Haji Milorad Stosic, Justina Pupin Koscal, Aleksandar Cotric, Jadranka Jovanovic, Slobodan Alavanja, Goran Milic, Milan Djurica, Petar Vesovic, Mladen Boskovic and Janko Langura.

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