April 27 marks the National Day of the Missing people in Kosovo. Group of organizations calls on the public to turn off the lights in their homes and premises for five minutes at 8 p.m. The goal is to point out the pain of family members of the missing people who, according to these organizations, have been facing institutional neglect of the issue of missing persons for 21 years. This, however, is not the only activity of a group of organizations. What is their goal, what is the biggest driver of solving the issue of the missing and why is solidarity important? Read below.
"By turning off the lights in our homes, we sympathize with the pain and darkness with which the families and relatives of 1,639 missing persons have been living for 21 years," they state.
The symbolic action was organized for the first time last year, and the organizers announce that it will become a tradition.
"The right to discover the truth remains one of the basic principles of dealing with the past, so we call on the Government of Kosovo to seriously address the issue of the missing in accordance with the rules of international humanitarian law. The main request was and remains the clarification of their destiny", reads the statement of the group of organizations.
The #inthedarknessofthemissing activity is organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights Kosovo, the Resource Center for Missing Persons in Kosovo, the Humanitarian Law Center, the ForumZFD - Program for Kosovo, the New Social Initiative and the Kosovo Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.
Initiators of activities ForumZFD are explaining that these activities are organized in the context of truth-seeking and collective recognition.
Activities are aimed at addressing (and contribute to challenging) the absence of wartime missing people’s narrative in public history and collective memorialization and to support families of wartime missing restoring the sense of acknowledgment and recognition, explains Korab Krasniqi from ForumZFD.
On the other hand, activities designed for the national missing persons' day, 27 April, serve as a constant reminder to institutions, in Belgrade and Pristina, to accelerate their efforts in solving the issue of the remaining wartime missing people, by putting aside political antagonisms and support families in their right to know the truth.
“It is about demanding legal and moral responsibility from the Governments and collective responsibility from societies to increase the efforts in solving the cases and to establish a culture of remembrance about missing, as opposed to exclusive memorialization politics,“ he adds.
As main driver for the resolution of the question of missing persons Krasniqi sees in the political willingness and consensus.
„Governments should approximate their priorities and help each other solving cases, offering bilateral information and support in the fieldwork. Civil society, on the other hand, plays an active role in advocating for the rights and demands of families, documentation of wartime experienced and memorialization practices, facilitating a process that grants the right to know the truth as well and establishing an inclusive memorialization practice,“ explains Krasniqi.
„The international community can play a significant role as well, by having provided access to military data that can potentially support identification of mass graves, secure funding, expertise, and capacity-building resources for local authorities“ he believes.
And why is it important to remember the missing persons? Why is the solidarity important?
“Through solidarity and participation we express recognition and empathy and let all families of missing persons from the last war in Kosovo know that we are in this together,” Krasniqi adds.
He invited everyone to support the joint symbolic action ‘In the darkness the missing’ by turning off the lights for five minutes on 27 April 2021, from 20.00
The New Social Initiative (NSI) from North Mitrovica is also participating in this activity. The same organization will implement a two-year project to strengthen the organizations of victims and survivors of the war in Kosovo, with a focus on the Serbian community.
NSI project manager Milica Andrić Rakić states that the action was supported by representatives of families of missing persons from different ethnic communities in Kosovo:
"Out of about 6,000 people who were reported missing during the last conflict in Kosovo, almost 30% are still wanted. Among them are people of all nationalities, and this difficult issue is rare, uniting the demands of Albanians, Serbs and all family members of all other ethnic groups, even when the official relations between Belgrade and Pristina are burdened with tensions and antagonism. The demand is clear - do everything possible to find out the fate of our family members."
This is not the only activity that the group of organizations is preparing for April 27.
The Day of the Missing from the War in Kosovo will begin with a flower-laying ceremony at the monument to missing persons in Pristina and a press conference by Bajram Qerkinaj and Negovan Mavrić from the Resource Center for Missing Persons in Kosovo.
NSI will have additional activities. Together with the Working Group for Chapter 35 of the National Convention on the EU and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, they are organizing a webinar where they will present the findings of the analysis of the efficiency of Serbian and Kosovo institutions in addressing missing persons in the period from 2016 to 2020.
"The process of searching for missing persons in Kosovo was burdened by the change of competencies between international missions from 2008 to 2018, when the Special Prosecutor's Office took full responsibility for the investigation of cases of missing persons in the war. In addition, the lack of meaningful cooperation between the Kosovo and Serbian prosecutors' offices, as well as the unavailability of information from the archives of the Armed Forces, the KLA and international organizations, further complicate the speed of investigations. However, opening the issue of missing persons within the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels is one of the possibilities that could contribute to solving some of these problems and we witnessed the first steps towards that goal at the end of last year when the mass grave in Kiževak three Albanian victims,” explains Andrić Rakić.
She adds that in the last four years, 59 assessments of the terrain and 4 exhumations were conducted, as well as that on that occasion the remains of 66 individuals were found, while 32 missing persons were identified.
You can follow the webinar for which an English translation has been organized from 12 noon on the link: https://bit.ly/2QQqF6k
See other activities of the group of organizations in the calendar below:
09:45 - Laying flowers at the memorial dedicated to Missing Persons; MPRC (in fron of the Memorial for Missing People);
10:00 - Press Conference/short addresinf of Mr. Bajram Qerkinaj and Mr. Negovan Mavric; MPRC (in fron of the Memorial for Missing People);
12:00 - Street action; YIHR KS (Skenderbeg Square);
12:00 - Webinar: Efficiency of mechanisms of Serbian and Kosovo institutions inf finding missing persons from the war in Kosovo in the period between 2016-2020; NSI, YIHR Serbia and Working Group for Chapter 35 of the National Convetion on the the Europena Union;
16:30 - Podcast: The Lubeniq Massacre; Kosovo 2.0 and Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo;
20:00 - In the Darrkness of the Missing People - Joint Activity;
20:00 - Broadcasting of short documentary/reportage on the issue of missing persons in Kosovo @ Kanal10; Forum ZFD (kanal 10);
20:10 - Five-day dedication to the stories of the relatives of missing people - Audio Dramas/Podcast "Living with the memories of the missing people, social media campaign; Integra&Forum ZFD (social media)
This project is supported by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and is implemented by the New Social Initiative. Expressed opinions represent the authors’ views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, UNMIK or New Social Initiative.