Opening of the Conference on the Occasion of Marking the International Day on Missing Persons by Chargée d'affaires a.i., Pauline Menthonnex


The identification of missing persons remains indeed a pressing humanitarian concerns in Kosovo today in spite of the resolution of many cases over the years.

Mirëmëngjesi të gjithëve,

Ju faleminderit që e keni ftuar Ambasadën e Zvicrës për të mbajtur një fjalim lidhur me  këtë temë të rëndësishme. Kjo është java ime e dytë këtu dhe takimi im i parë lidhur me këtë temë në Kosovë.

Dobro jutro svima,

Hvala vam što ste pozvali Švajcarsku ambasadu da održi govor na ovakvu važnu temu. Ovo je moja druga nedelja ovde i prvi sastanak na ovu temu na Kosovu.

Today is a Day of Remembrance. The identification of missing persons remains indeed a pressing humanitarian concerns in Kosovo today in spite of the resolution of many cases over the years.

Let us indeed remember that, to this very day, 1653 persons, a third of whom were children and elderly, are still missing from the conflict in Kosovo. Their families and loved ones, two decades after the conflict, do not know what happened to them. They deserve to know. They have a right to know.

We note with concern that in the past ten years progress in closing cases has slowed down significantly.

As the time is passing, the memories of the witnesses are fading but also 20 years after they are growing old and dying.

Switzerland with its long humanitarian tradition and, in its capacity as depositary state of the Geneva Conventions, would like to recall that International humanitarian law and human rights law lay down the obligation of states to address the issue of missing persons.

Hence Switzerland’s call on authorities to do everything in their power to solve remaining cases. More efforts, more resources, conducive narratives and enhanced political will are needed to locate undiscovered gravesites and identify remains.

We hope that the political commitment expressed by Heads of State from the region – including from Kosovo who is now also a signatory of the Declaration on Missing Persons at the London Summit last July – will translate into realities and pave the way for substantial progress.

Looking at the way forward and considering that today’s conference also aims at identifying future actions, I would like to emphasize that crucial information such as indicating dates or locations relevant to the identification of missing persons is still unavailable to those investigating.

As such, we are today reiterating our call upon the Government of Kosovo to lend support and authority to those organs that are leading the search for missing persons, such as the Department of Forensic Medicine and the Government Commission on Missing Persons. Only if they enjoy full support from all levels of government will they be able to perform their duties successfully.

It is also essential to ensure adequate staffing to those institutions in order to ensure effective implementation of their mandates.

Not knowing the fate of persons still missing not only puts affected families under enormous strain but continues to fuel resentment between ethnic communities and hinders the process of reconciliation.

In this respect, we welcome the important work done by the “Missing Persons Resource Center”. Besides its commitment to continuously advocate for the rights of the victims and their families, it also demonstrates the possibility to genuinely work together on issues of common interest, thereby transcending ethnic divides effectively. 

We also appreciate the invaluable contribution to reconciliation of the Working Group dealing with the issue of missing persons and thank the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC ) who chairs the group. We also appreciate ICRC’s on-going work on archives in cooperation with the MICT as well as International Commission on Missing Persons continuous expertise and endeavors which remain essential to advancing families’ right to know.

The main responsibility to advance to fate of missing persons lies however with the authorities. The fact that, since last year, Kosovo does not depend on the International Community to work on the excavations in Kosovo, represents in our view an opportunity to demonstrate both Kosovo’s capacities and willingness to contribute to reconciliation effectively.

Notwithstanding the mandate of the Kosovo Special Court which might also contribute to advancing the fate of missing persons, we trust that Kosovo authorities will also pursue their efforts towards reaching justice for the missing persons.

To conclude, allow me to reiterate Switzerland’s commitment – alongside other members of the international community – to further contribute to efforts aimed at advancing the rights of the victims and to contribute to a lasting reconciliation process.