The International Committee of the Red Cross says the fate of thousands of people who disappeared during fighting in the Balkans is unknown, years after the fighting ended.

The ICRC says nearly 24,000 people are missing in Croatia and Bosnia, and thousands more in Kosovo.

Barbara Hintermann, the ICRC deputy head of operations for central and southeastern Europe, said the Red Cross has had the most success in tracing cases in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Ms. Hintermann added authorities in those countries have cooperated with the Red Cross and have released important information regarding the missing. "There is a will to tackle the issue, to find answers for the families of missing persons," he said. "It is working very well as you can see also in the figures. Fifty-percent of the cases were solved."

But Ms. Hintermann noted the political will to tackle the problem of missing persons is lacking in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She said a Working Group on missing people, which included Muslim, Croat, and Serb representatives, was suspended in 1999 and has not yet been resumed.

Ms. Hintermann explained Bosnia's political leaders may be unwilling to cooperate in the search because of fear. For instance, she said the exhumation of mass graves is likely to uncover incriminating evidence that could be used against them in a court of law.