CMP to request new permission to excavate in military zones in 2019, Turkish Cypriot member tells CNA

The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) will be requesting new permission to excavate in military zones in 2019, the Turkish Cypriot member Gulden Plumer Kucuk has told the Cyprus News Agency in an interview.

Kucuk said that since the launch of the project of General Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains, exhumations have taken place in 52 military areas all over the island.

She said that by 2016 the CMP had carried out exhumations in a total of 30 places in the northern part of the island, adding that ”after our demands, we have been granted access to military areas according to our request in 30 places with a plan of excavating in 10 military zones per year.

”In 2017, we have also requested permission for two additional places to be excavated and it has been granted. In 2018 we will be finished with the last 10 places. Both offices are working on a new list to request new permissions in the military zones starting from 2019. The permission will be granted in accordance with our request. We also got permission and excavated in 2 military zones in the south Cyprus”, Kucuk said.

She pointed out that CMP welcomes any kind of help and encouragement in order to help the families of the missing persons, adding that this ”must come from all the parties instead of putting pressure continuously on one.”

Invited to comment on the fact that people are not willing to come forward to give information for missing persons and that some have passed away, Kucuk told CNA that indeed this has been a concern, although the main information inflow in locating the burial places on both the northern part and the southern part of the island comes from Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot eye witnesses and informants.

”Since the launch of the project in 2006, our investigators have been collecting information and we have been exhuming bi-communally around 100 burial sites per year all around the island. This shows that the cooperation through the grassroots of people is very high. There are still some people who are reluctant to come forward to share their information”, she said.

Kucuk told CNA that the Committee is grateful to the people who are aware of the pain of the families of missing persons and help to bring their agony to closure by sharing their information. CMP, she pointed out, is also well aware that the time is their main challenge.

”The first missing cases happened in 1963-64. It has been 55 years, people are passing away, but the work of CMP has been entrusted to Members of CMP by both sides with certain terms of reference under the project called General Exhumation, Identification and Return of the Remains starting from 2006. After the project has been launched, the CMP has quickly built up its credibility by proving its efficiency and providing results” she said.

The Turkish Cypriot member also underlined the fact that the CMP has always received the support of the leaders of both sides and this has helped the Committee to build trust.

”The support of the families of missing persons is huge. This is the reason people are coming forward and helping us. In order to overcome this problem we continuously train our investigators, we try to use new technologies such as new software and new scientific systems to increase the usage of the data collected, work in cooperation in finding burial sides,” she said.

Kucuk added that both offices have hot lines and both sides have given immunity and confidentiality to the witnesses.

She also mentioned the fact that political and religious leaders have been calling on people to help CMP and that the Committee has been launching campaigns and appealing to witnesses to share their information.

”The Members also decided to look into archives. There are 12 different sources to research both domestic and abroad. These are the archives of different countries, institutions who were on the island in 1963-64 and 1974,” she told CNA.

Asked about a recent visit to Buenos Aires (14-18 March), she explained that the members of CMP have been invited to attend the conference and the workshops organized by Swisspeace, Center for the promotion of human rights, International Center for the Promotion of Human rights, National Center for historical Memory.

The topic was International Conference on Archives and Human Rights.

”CMP Members talked about the model we use and the model of the archives research applied on the island with our own realities. We shared our experiences and learned from others. There were global challenges that were discussed such as problem of not having global legal legislation on archives, some legal difficulties in using data, or misused data, language problems etc,” she added.

We ask Kucuk to share with us her experience being a member of the CMP, how painful it is dealing with such an issue with both political and humanitarian aspects.

She tells us that CMP Members need to develop high skills in understanding and empathizing, and in learning to respect other cultures.

”CMP is not a legal body but the Members are appointed by the leaders. We are aware that the humanitarian aspect of the responsibility is the priority. Working in a Committee teaches you to work in a multicultural environment and to be able to understand the other side. Consensus decisions are the main element that pushes us to cooperate. The concept of equality while dealing with the rights of both Turkish and Greek Cypriot missing persons puts the perceptions in line. However, the complexity of the political situation on the island also effects the work of the CMP and Members should be well aware of the balances”, she told CNA.

Invited to comment on the impact a political settlement will have on the work of the CMP, Kucuk told CNA that after the launch of the project of General Exhumation, Identification and Returns of Remains the families of the missing persons have engaged in expecting to receive the remains of their loved ones. She added that every family has the right to know about the faith of their loved ones.

”The ups and downs on the negotiations have an effect on the work of the CMP, but the set-up of the project is continuing since both sides have engaged with this responsibility, agreed and promised the families of the missing persons to support them. The political settlement would have a positive effect on the project as it would on all the other sectors and the lives of the people on the island,” she told CNA.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Hundreds of Greek Cypriots went missing during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, most of them combatants but also women, children and elderly people. During the same period and in the early 1960 when intercommunal fighting broke out Turkish Cypriots went missing too.

A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.

The CMP is a tripartite intercommunal investigatory committee comprising a representative of the Greek Cypriot community, a representative of the Turkish Cypriot community, and a Third Member nominated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and appointed by the UN Secretary General.

Source: Cyprus News Agency