Shedding light on the fate of Cyprus’ missing persons remains a top priority, Presidential Commissioner says

Finding out about what happened to the missing persons and those killed during Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 remains a top priority for the Governments of Cyprus and Greece, Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Issues and Overseas Cypriots, Photis Photiou, said on Saturday during an event on missing persons.

In an address at the event, organised by 1619 Football Academy and the Pancyprian Organisation of the Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons, Photiou said that the President of the Republic, Nicos Anastasiades, has repeatedly made public appeals to anyone who has information that can help shed light on the fate of missing persons, to step forward.

Photiou also said that, at the same time, actions are being carried out at all levels aimed at improving the effectiveness of cooperation between the competent bodies that deal with such issues.

The Commissioner also said that the state exerts “every possible effort” within the framework of the Permanent Representatives of the member States of the Council of Europe for the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ decisions of 2001 and 2014, concerning the issue of the Greek Cypriot missing persons.

He recalled that the Republic of Cyprus has filed four transnational lawsuits against Turkey, at the Council of Europe, which ruled there are violations of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Photiou also said that efforts are exerted so that the Turkish intransigence is curbed as regards granting access to information about the whereabouts of the burial sites of missing persons, expressing hope that the UN, the European Union and other countries, will, “even now” take humanitarian initiatives and actions to put pressure on the occupying power to cooperate and respect international law and the principles and values of human rights.

It’s been 48 years since the Turkish invasion, but around 50% of the missing persons cases are still pending, he said.

The Government, he added, has been supporting the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), but, “unfortunately the results of the excavations in the occupied areas leaves much to be desired.”

The source of the problem, he added, is the refusal of the occupying power to submit the information contained in the records of the Turkish army about the fate of missing persons, especially the cases that are pending while it continues to place obstacles “in the so-called military zones for both search and exhumation.”

According to statistical data published on the CMP website by December 31, 2021 out of 2002 missing persons 1,183 were exhumed and 1,023 were identified.

Out of 1,510 Greek Cypriot missing persons 732 were identified and 778 are still missing. Out of 492 Turkish Cypriot missing persons 291 were identified and 201 are still missing.

In 2020, 25 missing persons were identified, in 2019, 42, in 2018, 71, in 2017, 117, in 2016, 115 and in 2015, 61.

In 2020, 4 persons were exhumed, in 2019, 26, in 2018, 10, in 2017, 26, in 2016, 80 and in 2015, 161.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Numerous UN-backed talks to reunite the island have failed to yield results.

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

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