Draft agreement fails to provide hope to missing persons associations

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Leaders of missing persons associations have told Prishtina Insight that they feel excluded from the latest phase of the dialogue, and are not optimistic about the details of a draft agreement reached in Brussels revealed on Monday.

Missing persons associations have told Prishtina Insight that they have not been consulted in the current phase of the dialogue, and are not hopeful that a draft agreement reached between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels will provide solace.

At a meeting of the Government Commission for Missing Persons on Monday, Ibrahim Makolli, who leads Kosovo’s working group on missing persons for the dialogue, revealed that the draft agreement includes a commitment to establish a joint commission between Kosovo and Serbia. 

He stated that the joint commission will be “responsible for overseeing and supporting the process of clarifying the fate of missing persons,” and will be led by a Special Envoy appointed by the European Union.

Makolli added that an agreement had also been reached on “unlimited access” to both local and international archives, including “those of the army, police and other forces of Serbia who participated in committing crimes in Kosovo and hiding the bodies of those killed.” 

However, Haki Kosumi, a leading member of the National Coordination Council of the Families of Missing Persons, told Prishtina Insight that he is not optimistic about the developments. 

Kosumi, who was present at Monday’s meeting of the Government Commission, described the explanation of the agreement as “theoretical, dry and lacking in detail.”

“For me, their explanations were unclear and I demanded, and will demand again in the next meeting, additional clarifications,” Kosumi said. “We haven’t seen anything in writing.”

Kosumi, who has been working on clarifying the fate of the missing for 20 years, is unhappy about the Kosovo Government’s lack of consultation with missing persons associations during the latest phase of the dialogue.

“The Coordination Council and other associations have not been consulted in any phase of preparation for the dialogue in Brussels in 2020,” Kosumi told Prishtina Insight. “I think their starting point was that they know the issue of missing persons. They are wrong.”

Nesrete Kumnova, the founder of the Mothers’ Call NGO that represents families of missing persons in Gjakova, is another critic of the current administration’s approach, stating that her organisation was also not consulted prior to discussions on missing persons in Brussels. 

She told Prishtina Insight that this left her unenthusiastic about any agreement reached. “No deal is acceptable without the involvement of missing persons associations,” she said. “I fear bad deals from secret talks. I consider it unjust, unacceptable and unethical. How can we be hopeful about such a process?”

Kumnova, whose son is among the 1,600 persons still missing from the Kosovo war, was invited to the meeting of the Government Commission on Monday but decided not to attend.

Meanwhile, Bekim Blakaj, the executive director of Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo an organisation dedicated to victim-centred transitional justice, told Prishtina Insight that he is uncertain about how aspects of the draft agreement would function in practice.  

“It remains uncertain whether the parties will be committed to opening the archives as it is not specified who will push the parties to open the secret archives,” Blakaj said. “For me, it remains unclear how this agreement will function and what the oversight mechanism will be.”

For Blakaj, this latest initiative is unlikely to provide any solace to families of those still missing from the Kosovo war in 1999. “In these 20 years, the families of missing persons have gone down the same paths,” he said. “Their hopes were raised and then disappointed. They are broken from living with the same pain, and it has led to distrust towards institutions.”

Prishtina Insight contacted Ibrahim Makolli to enquire about the exclusion of missing persons associations from the dialogue process. However, he stated that this was a question for Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti or Skender Hyseni, the State Coordinator for the Dialogue.

BIRN has made numerous attempts to contact Skender Hyseni to discuss this topic of missing persons but has received no response. In fact, Hyseni has twice hung up the phone when the issue of missing persons was raised. Prishtina Insight also contacted Deputy Prime Minister Driton Selmanaj but received no response.

(prishtinainsight.com, 20/10/2020)

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