Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Co-Chairman - Helsinki Commission

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Today’s hearing is on a topic of deep interest to me. While we are saddened by the stories our witnesses will tell of relatives missing--some for many, many years, we are also be inspired by their courage and leadership as they forge ahead seeking truthful answers regarding what happened not only to their loved ones but also to the loved ones of the many others they represent.

Serving as Co-Chairman of this Commission, I have taken great interest in international civilian police and law enforcement efforts, in southeastern Europe and elsewhere. In Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia, the OSCE and other organizations have been working to build the capacity for local police forces providing law and order and, at the same time, respecting the rule of law themselves. In Kosovo, the United Nations has also deployed its own civilian police force to do this job until such time that the Kosovo Police Service can perform all these functions on its own. I had the opportunity to visit the OSCE school for training police cadets in Kosovo in 2001, and was impressed by the work being done there.

The topic of today’s hearing, therefore, also interests me from this perspective. Investigation of cases of missing persons is a task for law enforcement agencies, and I would like to hear from the witnesses whether police investigators, either local or international, have been of any assistance to them in their search, and whether there might be some opportunity here for our country and perhaps others to provide the police and other law enforcement personnel with greater training and expertise to investigate missing persons cases more thoroughly.

Of course, since most of the individual cases which the Commission is examining today took place during a period of conflict, the circumstances surrounding these cases are more complex and involve a wide variety of offices and organizations. Still, there is a role that law enforcement can and should play.

In closing, I express my hope that, through this hearing and other efforts, the Commission will encourage the State Department and the international community, to make the resolution of missing persons cases, regardless of ethnicity, a priority task. Such would help promote stability and reconciliation in the region. More importantly, though, the families and communities involved would welcome the commitment to uncover the facts.