Relatives of missing persons warn that hundreds could remain missing for ever unless Turkey cooperates

Hundreds of missing persons could remain missing for ever unless Turkey cooperates, relatives warn

Relatives of missing persons fear that hundreds could remain missing for ever unless Turkey cooperates

The relatives of persons, who went missing during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, warned on Friday that hundreds of these people could remain missing for ever unless the Turkish side, which holds the key for the solution of this humanitarian issue, facilitates the Committee’s on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) task, instead of hindering efforts to establish the fate of all missing persons.

A conference organized in Nicosia on Friday by Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou and the Cypriot and Greek committees of the relatives of missing persons looked into the issue of Human Rights and the Missing Persons in Cyprus. Both the governments of Cyprus and Greece reassured of their continuous efforts to solve the issue of missing persons, stressing that Ankara must show good will and cooperate towards this direction.

President of Cyprus Organization of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons Nicos Sergides told the conference that hopes for solving the issue of missing persons soon have fainted, and fears that hundreds of missing persons could remain missing for ever have grown,

Sergides said that in 2018 CMP found the remains of only ten missing persons from both communities, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, adding that these results are disappointing and have caused concern.

He stressed that CMP should be supported and should be able to create conditions of prospect and effective operation, overcoming the problems it is facing. He added that the main problem is to secure the sincere cooperation of the engaged parties and mainly of the Turkish side, which often makes things more difficult with its stance.

On her part, Chair of the Panhellenic Committee of relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons Maria Kalbourtzi said that their joint efforts need to be reconsidered, adding that they need to find methods, create the preconditions and use their experience with a view to solve this humanitarian issue.

She stressed that the relatives of missing persons demand to get responses to their questions about the life, the death or the execution of their beloved ones, stressing Turkey’s undeniable responsibility over the issue of missing persons.

In his address at the beginning of the conference, read out by Commissioner Photiou, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades expressed hope that Turkey will at last cooperate sincerely, showing the necessary good will as regards this issue, without trying to serve its own political or other expediencies or conceal responsibilities which are based on true facts.

He stressed that no excuses can be accepted and the burden of responsibility regarding this issue cannot be lessened, and there can be no excuse for the disappearance of so many people, among which children and elderly people.

Anastasiades pledged that we will continue the research and to use all means at our disposal in order to be able to give responses the soonest possible to the anguished questions of the relatives of missing persons and of all of us.

The President said that despite the important efforts made so far and the progress achieved during the last years, the list of missing persons in Cyprus remains a long one, noting that Turkey, which still occupies part of Cyprus’ territory continues to systematically violate the human rights of the missing persons’ relatives and ignore the European Court of Human Rights and the UN resolutions and decisions.

He described the situation as inhumane, and noted that it constitutes a provocation for the whole civilized world, for all states and peoples that do not accept the problem of the disappearance of so many people to remain unsolved, without the side which bears the responsibility making all the required sincere efforts to address the situation and solve it.

Moreover, he noted that no one can tolerate the crime of the systematic and on purpose relocation of remains from the initial burial sites to other sites which continue to remain unknown in an effort to conceal the criminal actions of those who invaded the island.

Anastasiades also recalled that both himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have made a dramatic call to those who have information to give it.

He also referred to the efforts made to acquire information from the achieves of foreign countries and international organizations, as well as information for the burial sites.

On his part, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick underlined that Cyprus and Greece are doing their utmost to shed light on the missing persons’ cases.

He noted that there is no doubt that Turkey bears a heavy responsibility about this situation, adding that Ankara is unwilling to contribute substantially to the solution of this matter.

Quick said that Turkey is not willing to open its archives and other sources that could help find useful information for the fate of missing persons. He noted that this delaying tactic followed by Turkey on purpose has as a result the on purpose delay in establishing the fate of the missing persons and creates the danger of not being able to acquire substantial evidence and information.

Moreover, he said that Turkey does not give CMP direct access to the so-called military zones in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus and refuses to implement the ECHR decisions as well Council of Europe and other organizations provisions on this issue.

He also referred to the massive excavations of burial sites in the occupied areas by the Turkish army and the relocation of remains with a view to conceal evidence that prove that war crimes were committed.

In the framework of the system in place at the Council of Europe for checking the implementation of European Court of Human Rights rulings, Cyprus is continuously trying to exert pressure on Turkey in order for it to change its intransigent stance and to have concrete outcomes in finding out what happened to missing persons, Attorney General Costas Clerides said in his intervention.

He noted that the Council of Europe’s relevant committee is set to examine the implementation of the 4th interstate case on the missing persons by Turkey between 12 and 14 March 2019.

The goal, he noted, will be to showcase once more Turkey’s obligation to effectively investigate what happened to missing persons in Cyprus including provide unhindered access to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) to military zones and its archives, including military archives.

Cyprus will also put forward Turkey’s obligation to prevent the phenomenon of relocating remains, its obligation to effectively investigate the conditions under which missing persons whose remains have been identified, died, and its unequivocal obligation to disburse Euros 30 million for the families of missing persons and Euros 60 million for enclaved people in Cyprus in line with ECHR’s ruling.

On his part, Professor of International and European Institutions at Pantion University Stelios Perrakis said that it might be time to send the case back to the Court due to the fact that Turkey is not complying with the ruling. He also suggested that the matter of the missing persons should be brought up through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and at European Parliament level.

Among his proposals of how to revive the matter of missing persons in Cyprus he noted that maybe the possibility of making a new interstate application should also be examined.

Historian and associate professor at the University of Cyprus Petros Papapolyviou gave a historic outline of the matter of missing persons in Cyprus.

The matter of missing persons is first and foremost a humanitarian one, he said, adding that there is the aspect of the families’ relief from the pain of not knowing but also of justice been served.

The fact that for 44 years now Turkey does not provide data which will lead us to find the resting places of our missing persons will be a factor which will continue to keep the Cyprus problem unresolved indefinitely, he noted.

Taking the floor, Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou described the situation as tragic, saying that in 2018 only 13 persons were identified, and that their relatives only buried some bones.

“If the situation continues as it has been in recent years, I am afraid that the CMP will have a problem. If there will be no remains how will the CMP go ahead with its important work? “

As regards the relocation of remains, he expressed concern that this was not only done in one case at the Assia area, but rather said that he believes that the remains of the majority of the missing persons which are now on the list, must have been relocated.

Regarding information in the archives, he said that one should not treat the issue of the archives in the Turkish army, which invaded and still occupies Cyprus, with the archives elsewhere, noting that some people, even the third party of the CMP treat the issue of the Turkish army archives as being the same with the archives elsewhere, saying that we reached the point where if Greece, Cyprus, the Red Cross, do not give archives then Turkey will not either.

He said that there is a problem in the CMP, since the second member does not cooperate, while the third member follows a different tactic which is not impartial.

Photiou pointed out that the UN which should have from the very beginning opened its archives, it allowed access to the archives of UNFICYP only two years ago following a lot of pressure.

He said that the Cyprus government continues its efforts but noted that the EU, which allocates most of the funds for CMP, bears a responsibility as well, since in order to make CMPs work more effective, Turkeys cooperation is needed, which unfortunately is not the case.

Referring to the relatives of the missing, he said that the suffering is the same for Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Greeks who lost their beloved ones.

Photiou said that if there is a confidence building measure that must work, that is the issue of the missing persons, noting that there can be no solution of the Cyprus problem unless there are ways to solve this humanitarian issue.

Earlier on, former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides took the floor, noting that the issue is humanitarian and not political. He too, noted that we may be facing a deadlock, since many witnesses have died or their memory begins to fade.

He said there was a great source of information that had been underestimated, namely the archives of the Red Cross, the Turkish Army, UNFICYP, and the records of the countries that served in UNFICYP at the time and expressed hope that information would be available in these archives.

According to data provided on the CMP website, the total number of missing persons is 2,002 of which 1,510 Greek Cypriots and 492 Turkish Cypriots.

The remains of 681 Greek Cypriots and 246 Turkish Cypriots were identified until January 31, 2019, while 829 Greek Cypriots and 246 Turkish Cypriots are still missing.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.

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