Missing Persons

As a result of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the tragic humanitarian problem of the missing persons emerged. Some 1.474 persons, both military personnel as well as civilians including women and children, were either captured by the invading Turkish armed forces during July and August of 1974, or disappeared long after the cessation of hostilities in the areas under the control of the Turkish army. Their whereabouts are unknown ever since.

As a result of the persistent efforts of the government of Cyprus and of the relatives of the missing persons, and following relevant UN General Assembly resolutions, a Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established in 1981. The humanitarian mandate of the Committee, which operates under the auspices and with the participation of the United Nations, is to investigate and determine the fate of the missing persons in Cyprus. The CMP is made up of three members – one representative from each side and a third member, who is designated by the UN Secretary-General. The Greek Cypriot side is represented by Mr Elias Georgiades and the Turkish Cypriot side by Mrs Gulden Plumer Kucuk. On 14 April 2006, the UN announced the appointment of Mr Christophe Girod as the 3rd member of the Committee on Missing Persons. He assumed duties on 3 July 2006.

Despite the efforts to resolve this humanitarian problem very few cases have been solved. The vast majority of the relatives of the Greek Cypriot missing persons have never been informed about the fate of their loved ones.

Meanwhile, the Agreement reached in July 1997 between the President of Cyprus Glafcos Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, recognising the basic human rights of the families of the missing and providing for the exchange of information on burial sites and the return of remains for proper burial, has not been implemented as Turkey, which is held responsible for the fate of the missing, has failed to cooperate.

In fact, the European Court of Human Rights, in examining the issue of the missing persons, has found that Turkey has violated fundamental articles of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to the missing. In its judgment on 10 May 2001 the Court established that there have been continuing violations by Turkey of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention concerning the right of life, liberty and security and prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Turkey was found to have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of the Greek Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life threatening circumstances or were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance. It also held that Turkey’s silence in the face of the real concerns of the relatives of the missing amounted to inhuman treatment. On 7 June 2005, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted an Interim Resolution calling on Turkey to fulfil its obligations.

Cyprus Government proceeds with exhumations

The Government of Cyprus in the meantime, decided to proceed with the exhumation of the remains of persons, both military and civilians, buried in the Lakatamia and Sts Constantine and Helen cemeteries, in the government-controlled areas of the island, in order to eliminate the possibility that bodies which had been buried haphazardly, would be counted as missing persons.

In this respect the Cyprus Government cooperated with the Physicians for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, which, together with another organization, was awarded a Nobel Prize for its humanitarian work in 1997. This organization, chaired by Professor William Haglund, had acquired much experience in exhumations in many places, such as Rwanda, Bosnia and Croatia. The exhumations began in June 1999, and through DNA testing, dozens of persons known to have died in 1974 were identified. A small number of these were included in the list of Greek Cypriot missing persons as, obviously, records were not properly kept at the time, because of the prevailing situation.

In the summer of 1999, exhumations were conducted from two Nicosia cemeteries. The exhumations were carried out and completed by the non-governmental organization Physicians for Human Rights. Due to the circumstances relating to their death, which prevented a proper identification at the time of burial, a number of persons, killed during the Turkish invasion, were buried as unknown soldiers in these two cemeteries.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 24 July 2001, as a result of this effort, the remains of 115 persons have been identified, 12 of whom concern cases of missing persons submitted to the CMP, 18 concern cases of missing persons of the Group of “126”, whose cases have not been submitted to the CMP, 79 concern cases of known military personnel, and 6 concern cases of known dead citizens.

The Government publishes lists of G/C and T/C missing persons

The Council of Ministers decided to publish the list of persons whose names are included in the records of the Government Service for Missing Persons as persons whose fate is still unknown. The list was officially published in the Government Gazette on 10th July 2000.

The Council of Ministers also decided to appoint a Committee with the mandate to prepare lists of Greek Cypriots and Greek nationals who were killed during or as a result of the July 1974 coup d’ etat and the Turkish invasion.

The Government, taking a step further, published in the Government Gazette, on 12 May 2003, the list of the names of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons. On 5 June 2003, it informed the relatives of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons that they could have access to the information provided by the Services of the Republic of Cyprus in relation to the investigations that had been carried out until then and to any possible results in order to determine the fate of their missing relatives.

In the announcement it was also noted that, facts and information on the death and the burial site of 201 out of 500 cases of Turkish Cypriot missing persons which were included in the list, had been given to the Turkish Cypriot representative, in the framework of the implementation of the 31st July 1997 Agreement on the Missing.

Investigatory exhumation of Turkish Cypriot remains at Alaminos

On 6 December 2002, the non Governmental Organization “Physicians for Human Rights” completed, at the village of Alaminos, in the Larnaca district, an investigatory exhumation that led to the discovery of human remains, which according to existing testimonies, belonged to Turkish Cypriots who lost their lives during a fire exchange with a unit of the National Guard, on 20 July 1974.

When the go-ahead for the scientific identification of the remains through the DNA method, which presupposes the relatives’ cooperation, is given, the scientific team will proceed to the second phase of the work, namely the exhumation of the remains.

The United Nations had been informed of the investigatory exhumation that had been carried out in Cyprus, and so was the First Assistant to the Third Member of the Investigatory Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), who had already visited the site where the investigatory exhumations were taking place. The competent authorities expressed their will to facilitate visits by the interested relatives and the Turkish Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons, to the burial sites.

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) is reactivated

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP), convened on 30th August 2004 at the Ledra Pallas after being inactive for nearly five years.

According to a press release issued by the Committee (30.08.2004), the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP, Mr Elias Georgiades and the Turkish Cypriot Member Mr Roustem Tatar reconfirmed their full commitment and ultimate goal to resolve the humanitarian issue that equally affects the families in both communities.

Non-profit forensic science organization INFORCE undertakes exhumations

On 9 November 2004, the Investigatory Committee on Missing Persons closed its 84th session which started on 30 August 2004, after holding fourteen meetings in the Ledra Palace in Nicosia.

At the end of its meeting on 25 October 2004, the Committee stated in a press release that “it reached an agreement in principle with INFORCE Foundation, a non-profit forensic science organization based in the UK to undertake exhumation work in Cyprus”. After the completion of its 85th working session, the Committee issued a press release which states that “the expert from the INFORCE Foundation, with whom agreement has been reached, in principle, to undertake exhumation work, on both sides, with regard to the Turkish and Greek Cypriot Missing Persons, and who came to the island in October for the first geophysical survey of certain burial sites, is expected to come again, with additional experts and equipment, in January 2005, for an exploratory investigation in regard to one of the three (3) sites presented by the

Turkish Cypriot side in 1998.” “It is hoped that satisfactory results will be obtained as soon as possible, concerning the fate of the missing persons,” the press release adds.

The CMP seeks information on Missing Persons

On 17 November 2004, the CMP appealed to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to communicate to the Office of the Committee any relevant information which may be in their possession, concerning the fate or the remains of Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot persons listed as missing, pointing out that “all information given will be treated as strictly confidential.”

People who have information should contact the Office of the Greek Cypriot Representative at telephone number 00357 22-305794/5 or the Turkish Cypriot Representative at telephone number 00357 22-38642.

Cyprus, the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands make financial contributions for exhumations

British Minister for Europe, Dr Denis MacShane announced during his visit to Cyprus on 21/22 October 2004, that the United Kingdom would be contributing US $50,000 towards the work of the Committee on Missing Persons. “The tragic issue of missing persons in Cyprus affects both sides and has been unresolved for far too long. There is a real possibility now of a breakthrough. I hope others will follow the British Government’s lead in supporting this work”, Dr MacShane stated. In addition, on 16 January 2006, British Deputy Foreign Minister Mr Douglas Alexander announced that his government would donate 45,000 British pounds to the CMP as contribution to the exhumation and identification process. On 30 May 2007, the British High Commission in Cyprus made a further donation to the CMP amounting to 10,000 Cyprus pounds, bringing its contributions to around £90,000. According to a press release issued by the British High Commission, the UK has supported expansion of CMP operations also by making available, at no cost, the site on which the CMP has built its forensic anthropology laboratory.

In addition, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany has donated 100,000 euros to the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) for the project of exhumations and identification (PEI). According to a German embassy press release (1.3.2006), by lending its support to the CMP, Germany wishes to emphasise the importance it attaches to both communities joining their peace-building efforts for the sake of all Cypriots.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus made available on 3 July 2006 the amount of 200,000 CYP (approximately 350,000 euros) to UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). The purpose of this contribution is to facilitate the implementation of the CMP General Programme for exhumations and identifications of remains. Since September 2005, the Government has contributed a total of 400,000 CYP (approximately 700,000 euros).

On 16 February 2007, the CMP announced that the Belgian Government had decided to contribute 250,000 euros, enabling the Committee to extend its project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains of missing persons, launched in August 2006. In a press release the CMP noted: “The Government of Belgium supports the work of the CMP because it enhances the dialogue between the communities and brings the concrete evidence that both communities have a strong interest in cooperating in order to go beyond the tragic events of the past and build together their common future”.

On 4 May 2007, the CMP issued a press release expressing its gratitude to the government of the Netherlands for ”its generous donation of 250,000 Euros announced on the occasion of the Queen’s Day by the Dutch Ambassador in Cyprus.” ”This donation will help the CMP pursue its project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains of missing persons in Cyprus well into 2008,” the Committee said.

CMP accepts INFORCE recommendations

The Committee on Missing Persons has accepted a recommendation by the Chief Executive and founder of INFORCE Foundation, Professor Margaret Cox, that INFORCE send an experienced forensic anthropologist to Cyprus to give advice on the requirements for a forensic anthropological laboratory to be located in the buffer zone. The CMP reached this decision during its 398th meeting, on 18 May 2005, with the participation of Professor Cox, who was invited by the CMP to participate in a survey of burial sites on both sides, on 17 and 18 May 2005. “It should be noted that for the first time a joint team of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots participated in a survey on the entire territory of the island”, a CMP press release said.

CMP agrees on principles for exhumation project

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) held its 403rd formal meeting on 30 June 2005, during which it agreed on the principles for the project in connection with the DNA identification of remains of both G/Cs and T/Cs to be exhumed on the island. In a press release, the CMP mentions inter alia the following:

“The necessary mechanisms will be set up without delay. Emergency exhumations carried out by Inforce under the aegis of the CMP started on Monday morning 27 June 2005. This first phase of an emergency nature, which is intended to safeguard remains and burial sites at risk due to heavy constructions and land use projects taking place, is expected to last for a number of weeks. Excavations will be carried out in certain places under the technical supervision of an Inforce Forensic Archaeologist guiding a Turkish Cypriot team. This team includes Archaeologists, an Anthropologist and specialized workers. A Greek Cypriot expert is also fully participating in this process. Remains found are taken into temporary custody under Inforce supervision; they will be transferred to the Anthropological Laboratory to be set up in the Buffer Zone. Early next week a Forensic Anthropologist expert of Inforce will visit Cyprus to prepare the ground for establishing such a laboratory.”

Government committed to proceeding with issue of T/C missing persons

The Cyprus Government’s longstanding position is that the humanitarian issue of missing persons should be settled far from political expediency, the Director of the President’s Press Office Mr Marios Karoyian noted, speaking after a meeting, on 6 July 2005, at the Presidential Palace between the Director of the President’s Diplomatic Office Mr Tasos Tzionis and the G/C Member to the CMP Mr Elias Georgiades with a delegation of Turkish Cypriot relatives of missing persons.

The delegation passed to the Government-controlled areas of the Republic in order to submit two memorandums to President Tassos Papadopoulos and Foreign Minister George Iacovou, respectively, regarding the efforts to resolve the humanitarian issue.

“There has been a sincere exchange of views and we were given the opportunity to reiterate the will of our side and of the Cyprus Government to make every possible effort to deal with the problems that concern all relatives, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot alike, with special emphasis on the issue of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons”, Mr Karoyian said and added that all steps would be taken in the framework of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP).

CMP Cypriot Members present advisers

The CMP announced that during its 404th formal meeting on 7 July 2005, the two Cypriot Members introduced to the Committee their respective Scientific Advisors, Dr Marios Kariolou and Dr Erol Baysal, who have been chosen to help in the implementation of the DNA identification project. The INFORCE Forensic Anthropologist, who arrived in Cyprus on 6 July, was also introduced to the Committee. According to the announcement, she explained her mission, which is to assess possible site locations for the Anthropological Laboratory to be established in the Buffer Zone, and other infrastructural and logistical requirements in connection therewith. The INFORCE Archaeologist presented his first progress report on emergency exhumations conducted since 27 June 2005. Emergency exhumations will continue, the CMP announcement concluded.

CMP is briefed on progress of emergency exhumations

The CMP held, on 14 July 2005, its 405th meeting, during which it was briefed by the INFORCE Forensic Archaeologist on the progress to date on the emergency exhumations. According to an announcement, the Committee also received a presentation from the INFORCE Forensic Anthropologist on the establishment of an Anthropological Laboratory in the buffer zone, including recommendations made regarding the premises to be used. The CMP approved the engagement of one of the two Turkish Cypriot Scientists for the DNA identification project. It is expected that the second Turkish Cypriot Scientist will be engaged soon.

CMP discusses budget and exhumations programme

The CMP held a formal meeting on 8 September, during which it considered information regarding the budget being prepared by INFORCE with respect to the implementation of the general exhumations programme, expected to commence as soon as possible. The Committee also considered the preparations being made with respect to the special mechanism of a bicommunal nature, which will be used for the DNA identification of the remains to be exhumed under the general exhumations programme and of those that have already been exhumed and kept, pending the setting up of the Anthropological Laboratory by INFORCE, a CMP press release noted.

Exhumations to start in Spring 2006

The general Programme of Exhumations and Identification (PEI) is set to start in Spring 2006 if all preparations run as expected, the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) announced on 10 November 2005. The CMP said it held two days of intensive consultations with Inforce officials during their 418th meeting at Ledra Palace, noting that “the general Programme of Exhumations & Identification (PEI) has been carefully reviewed by the Committee and Professor Margaret Cox, Chief Executive Officer of Inforce, accompanied by Mr Jonathan Forrest, Finance Director, in particular the possibility for Cypriot scientists of both communities to be actively associated with this programme”. According to the announcement, “a tentative budget, including 15 Inforce experts for the first year of the programme, was agreed upon. The general Programme of Exhumations & Identification will duly start when the Anthropological Laboratory will be completed and operational, and the last details of the programme of identification by DNA agreed upon”.

A more recent announcement by CMP, released after a meeting on 22 December 2005, said the location of the Anthropological Laboratory had been selected, the lease agreement signed and the work had commenced. “It is expected that it will be completed before next April (2006), thus enabling the programme of general exhumations to start the same month”, it is further noted.

CMP project proposal finalised

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus announced on 19 April 2006 that its project proposal for the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains of Missing Persons had been finalised. In a statement, the CMP also said “the exhumation of the remains of ten individuals took place in the Messaoria area and in the south-east of Nicosia” and the remains will be transferred to the anthropological laboratory in the United Nations Protected Area once the project is launched. Particularly about the laboratory, the CMP said its construction was being finalized, adding that “the Turkish Cypriot laboratory is functional and is working on the collection of blood samples of the Turkish Cypriot relatives of missing persons for DNA extraction”.

Exhumations project begins

The CMP project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains is launched on 24 August 2006, after a meeting, on that day, of the Committee with the Argentinean Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) at the Ledra Palace. The island-wide programme of exhumations will be carried out by a team of T/C and G/C archaeologists and anthropologists under the guidance of EAAF, a CMP press release dated 24.8.2006 states. Exhumed remains will be transferred to the Anthropological Laboratory which the CMP has built in the UN Protected Area (old Nicosia airport). A team of G/C and T/C anthropologists will work at the laboratory under the guidance of the Argentinean team. The project will initially be run for a period of two months and if funding permits, it will continue until all known burial sites have been explored, the press release concludes.

Exhumations progress satisfactorily

The project on the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains is progressing satisfactorily, the CMP said in a press release on 14 September 2006, adding that “protocols and procedures have been put in place and the remains of some thirteen missing persons have been exhumed in the Kyrenia area”. The CMP also said “a similar number have undergone anthropological analysis at the CMP’s laboratory in the United Nations Protected Area (Old Nicosia Airport)”.

Mechanisms of exhumation project are in place, CMP says

The CMP has set up most of the mechanisms of the project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains of missing persons and it is proceeding with the training of its bi-communal team of anthropologists and archaeologists. According to a press release issued by the Committee after a meeting on 12 October 2006, the CMP is aiming to finalise soon the remaining agreements with external partners to be involved in the project and it has proceeded with the extension of its contract with the Argentinean Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). Since the end of August, some 50 remains of missing individuals have been exhumed and approximately 24 have undergone anthropological analysis at the CMP laboratory. The transfer of remains to the laboratory is ongoing and it is foreseen that all the exhumed remains of missing persons will be stored at the CMP laboratory in the near future, the CMP adds.

CMP is hoping for return of remains to relatives by April 2007

The Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) has expressed hope to be able to return the first sets of remains to the families concerned by April 2007, the Committee said in a press release issued after its last meeting of the year held on 21 December 2006. During 2006, the CMP formalised and launched its Project on the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains of Missing Persons in Cyprus, which entails exhumations all over the island carried out by bi-communal teams of both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists, under the guidance of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), anthropological analysis on the remains stored at the Anthropological Laboratory built by the CMP in the United Nations Protected Area (UNPA) in Nicosia, and DNA identifications. The press release further noted that to date 160 sets of remains were at the Anthropological Laboratory, where they were analysed and prepared for DNA tests. For 2007, the CMP said it would resume its investigative activities to discover the fate of missing persons, in addition to what the exhumation and identification process could yield. “The budget for the project in 2007 amounts to some EUR 2.1 million. Substantial contributions have been secured by the CMP, which continues its fundraising efforts. The project is expected to last several years,” it was added in the press release.

The European Parliament adopts resolution on missing persons

The plenary of the European Parliament adopted on 15 March 2007 a resolution on missing persons in Cyprus, submitted by the Cypriot MEP Panayiotis Demetriou. The resolution calls on the Council and the Commission to concern themselves actively with this humanitarian problem, providing inter alia financial help to the CMP, and to take all necessary steps to bring about implementation of the relevant judgment of the ECHR. It also foresees that the problem is referred to the competent EP committee with a view to follow-up, in close cooperation with the Commission, and instructs the committee to report to it within six months. The EP also expresses its support to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) and urges all the parties concerned to pass on to the CMP any information they may have.

Identification process begins

Τhe CMP announced, on 3 April 2007, the launch of the genetic identification phase of its Project on the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains of missing persons and expressed hope that the first identified remains of missing persons would be returned to their relatives by the end of Spring 2007.