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UN Experts Say Time Running Out to Solve Missing Persons Cases

NICOSIA – Half a century after people on Cyprus went missing during conflicts and Turkey’s 1974 invasion, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances latest report said politics has prevented a resolution that looks like will not happen.

Officials on the panel visited the island from April 5-12, the latest effort to determine the fate of those who went missing on both sides, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, including intercommunal violence in 1963-64 during which Turkey said atrocities were committed.

“Political and other considerations within both communities, seem to play an important role on the decision to proceed with the investigation on a particular site identified,” the report read, said The Cyprus Mail.

The delegation consisted of Luciano Hazan, Aua Balde and Henrikas Mickevicius, who presented their preliminary findings at a press conference at the House of Cooperation, mostly finding much to criticize.

A final report on the visit will be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September, initially finding that there’s enough information to reveal what happened to the missing that’s being withheld over mistrust and politics.

“It is essential to put mistrust and resentment behind to finally put an end to the anguish and pain of all families,” it said, adding that some family members are faced with a prospect of receiving residual remains as tiny as a person’s tooth.

The experts stated that 776 Greek Cypriots and 201 Turkish Cypriots out of the total number of 2002 in the official list administrated by the bicommunal Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) remain missing.

It said, however, that more than 50 percent of the persons on the list have been exhumed and identified since the unit became fully operational in 2006, but no determination on the rest.

Hazan said that during their stay on the island, they met, among others, with Cypriot government officials, UN agencies, the Committee on Missing Persons and hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.

WHERE ARE THEY?

They also talked with relatives of missing persons from both communities, as well as and with human rights defenders, lawyers, academics and other members of civil society to get their views too.

It also noted that the Turkish-Cypriot side is barring access to the missing persons committee which has hampered its efforts and that investigators are not allowed to see military archives to find mass burial sites.

The report expressed regret that the Cyprus is not yet a state party to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, despite signing on in 2007.

The unit also noted that a number of relatives applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after exhausting legal remedies on the island, further adding to the frustration and loss of hope of a political solution.

The cases mainly concern Turkey’s failure to conduct an effective investigation into the fate and whereabouts of those missing after two 1974 invasions although complaints have been brought against the Greek-Cypriot side that’s a member of the European Union.

In 2021, the EHCR awarded 45,000 euros ($48,774) in damages to the family of a Greek-Cypriot killed during the Turkish invasion, which said there was a failure to propertly investigate, no word on whether it was paid.

“Virtually all stakeholders we have met have underlined the importance to establish the truth for the victims, the relatives and the society as a whole. (We) recommend all stakeholders to give due consideration to this idea, which could also be conducive to reconciliation,” the report said.

The experts also noted that: “No progress has been made in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions for human rights violations resulting in individuals going missing, including possible enforced disappearances.

“While this is another essential pillar that needs to be addressed, together with truth, reparation and memory, there is very little emphasis in Cyprus on accountability,” it added, the newspaper reported.

The CMP in Cyprus was established in April 1981 by agreement between Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, under the auspices of the UN, but since then there’s been little progress made to find missing remains.

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