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Thursday, July 23, 1998 Published at 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK

World: Europe

Up to '20,000' still missing in Bosnia

A personal belonging is discovered but the owner is still missing

A series of events designed to increase awareness of the problem of thousands of people still missing from the conflict in Bosnia is being held in the capital, Sarajevo.

The BBC's Nick Childs: "The general assumption is that most are dead"
The events - including a round-table discussion chaired by the head of the International Commission on Missing Persons, Robert Dole, and the screening of two films on missing persons - are also intended to increase political pressure to produce a quick and effective solution to the problem.

[ image: Forensic evidence is still being unearthed]
Forensic evidence is still being unearthed
The three-year conflict in Bosnia with its brutal agenda of ethnic cleansing has left, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a legacy of nearly 20,000 people are still unaccounted for.

The ICRC says that out of 19,943 queries from families searching for missing relatives, only 1,800 cases have been solved since the war ended in 1995.

[ image: Around 8,000 Muslim men were allegedly massacred in Srebrenica]
Around 8,000 Muslim men were allegedly massacred in Srebrenica
The BBC's World Affairs Correspondent says the largest proportion of people unaccounted for are the 8,000 Muslim men believed to have been executed by Serb forces which overran the former Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.

"Some families cling to the hope that their loved ones are still alive, but the general assumption is that most are dead," he said.

The need to co-ordinate with separate efforts to gather forensic evidence for possible war crimes prosecutions is hampering the process of simply identifying victims the for the sake of their relatives.

A lack of resources, the difficulty in uncovering likely grave sites and the dangers of mines and other potential hazards have also added to the delays.

The head of the ICRC delegation in Bosnia, Peter Stocker, also blamed political indifference for hampering the search.

"There is lack of political will from the side of authorities to support their own commissions and provide the means for their work," he told reporters.

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