Hundreds of people marched Friday in Pristina to mark the International Day of the Disappeared, putting pressure on Serbia to resolve the fate of more than 1,600 people missing since the Yugoslav Wars 20 years ago.
Bajram Cerkini of the Pristina-based Missing Persons Resource Centre said that "locals cannot heal this wound," the Koha Ditore news website reported. "The internationals always say, the address is in Serbia," he said, referring to demands by international organizations for Serbia to step up its efforts. "We must push Serbia to tell us."
The Albanian majority in the former Serbian province rebelled for independence in 1998, triggering a heavy-handed response by Belgrade's forces, which eventually drew the West into action. A NATO bombing campaign of Serbia forced Belgrade to pull out in 1999. Although 20 years have passed, 1,653 people are still missing, mostly Albanians. Poor relations between Serbia and Kosovo are contributing to the slow progress in the search.
Similar protests were held Friday in Bosnia and Croatia, both of which had to fight for independence from the former Yugoslavia. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia disintegrated over a decade of wars with an estimated 130,000 killed and millions displaced in the conflict. The turmoil has left long-lasting scars which continue to hamper reconciliation and normalization in the region. The fate of around 10,000 people gone missing, mostly in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, remains unresolved largely due to the lack of political will from all sides and further strains ties.