Losing a loved one in a conflict is tragic. But to have that followed by decades' long uncertainty about a loved one's exact fate makes the grief even heavier. With the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo's help, Fatime Krasniqi finally got clarity about her missing husband's fate.
Just like she did every year since 1999, in April 2017 Fatime Krasniqi, went to her husband’s memorial to mark the eighteenth anniversary of his disappearance from their small village, during the Kosovo war. Little did she know that just a few days later she would be contacted by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo – EULEX - and Kosovo' Institute of Forensic Medicine with news that the remains of her late husband Sefer Azem Krasniqi had finally been identified.
The news brought hope as well as renewed anxiety to the Krasniqi family. Like any other family of the Missing, they hoped for the return of their loved ones. Like any other family, as the hope of seeing their loved ones again slowly vanished, they were praying for some final closure that would mark the end of their long wait: a proper burial.
‘I kept repeating to myself that maybe there was a chance he had not completely disappeared,’ Fatime told EULEX.
At the end of the war in 1999, there were around 4,500 persons reported missing due to the conflict. Access to an effective justice system is an essential right, one of the founding principles of European democracies, and the EU is committed to this principle, at home and abroad. Increased access to justice makes societies more secure, fairer, and more equitable and reduces the likelihood of renewed conflict. Since the EU Mission deployed in 2008, EULEX forensic experts have been helping Kosovo institutions such as the Institute of Forensic Medicine to expedite the solving of such cases. Since then, EULEX has conducted 576 field operations in order to identify and re-associate human remains. From these, it has successfully identified 423 individuals, 294 of which were registered missing persons.
Sefer was found as a result of EULEX's efforts to identify the remaining Missing Persons of Kosovo's war - thought to be around 1665 persons.
The advancement of DNA identification techniques brings renewed hope to EULEX’s continuing efforts to identify missing persons. Particularly in the case of mass-killings, the working hypothesis of EULEX experts is that each bone fragment could represent a different individual.
Fatime knew of friends whose family members had been re-exhumed according to the latest standards, in order to facilitate the identification process. ‘My message to the families, who buried their loved ones earlier without one hundred percent certainty on their identification, is to allow for the graves to be opened in order to make a proper assessment. Families should agree to ensure the proper identification of the victims. It has been very difficult for me, going to visit an empty grave’, said Fatime expressing her gratitude for the efforts that led to Sefer’s identification.
While this decision, and the procedure, can be incredibly hard for the families, thanks to these re-exhumations and the following DNA analysis, people like Fatime have finally been able to know the fate of their family members.
EULEX Head of Mission Alexandra Papadopoulou affirmed EULEX’s commitment to solve the open cases of those who are missing. ‘EULEX is here to help Kosovo institutions move forward while dealing with issues from the past, including the identification of missing persons. The more time passes, the harder the identification process gets, but as long as we are here, we will never give up.’