Balkans News

Search Begins For Missing Victims Of Albanian Communism

An unmarked grave site near Dajti Mountan in Tirana. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN

The International Commission on Missing Persons has started the long-delayed process of searching for the remains of several thousand Albanians who went missing under Communism.

The International Commission on Missing Persons, ICMP on Friday called on families of victims of Communism to visit its office in Tirana and give blood samples that can be used for the identification of their relatives’ remains if they are found.

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The collection of blood samples started after the Albanian parliament on Thursday evening finally approved the long-awaited agreement with the ICMP to start the search process.

“ICMP applauds the ratification of the agreement and the courage of the Albanian authorities in tackling this very sensitive issue from Albania’s communist past,” Matthew Holliday, the head of the ICMP’s Western Balkans programme, said in a press release.

The agreement took several months to negotiate and has had to wait for government and parliamentary approval since March. It envisages the search for remains in two known Communist-era grave sites, one near Tirana and another near a former concentration camp in Ballshi in southern Albania.

During 45 years of Communist rule, an unknown number of Albanians were executed and buried in unmarked graves or died in prison camps.

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About 6,000 names of those executed were identified in the early 1990s. The locations of the burial sites of several thousand of them are not yet known.

The ICMP offered to assist the Albanian authorities over the issue in 2010, after one man’s private search for his father’s burial place uncovered a mass grave near Tirana at the foot of Dajti Mountain.

The government then created a commission to work on the issue, but there was no systematic attempt to tackle the issue. The remains of those discovered in 2010 are still unidentified.

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