The humanitarian problem of the missing persons remains one of the most tragic consequences of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus.
Hundreds of Greek Cypriots, both military personnel as well as civilians, were either captured by the Turkish forces during July and August 1974, or disappeared long after the cessation of hostilities in the areas under the control of the Turkish army. Moreover, according to witnesses’ testimonies, a number of Greek Cypriot missing persons were last seen in Turkish prisons, where thousands of war prisoners were transferred and detained.
After persistent efforts of the Cyprus Government and of relatives of the missing persons, and following relevant UN General Assembly resolutions, a Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established in 1981, under the auspices and with the participation of the United Nations. The Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot Members of the Committee submitted for investigation 1.493 and 502 cases of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons, respectively. In 2007, the Greek Cypriot Member submitted for investigation 42 cases of Greek Cypriot missing persons of the period from 1963 to 1964, 126 more cases of missing persons that were not submitted initially to the CMP and 548 cases of Greek Cypriot persons who died and were buried in the occupied areas by the occupation army or by Greek Cypriots acting under orders from the Turkish army.
The mandate of the Committee is to investigate and determine the fate of the missing persons in Cyprus. Due to lack of cooperation on the Turkish side, the CMP was not able to start the investigation process up until 2004.
In July 1997, the then President of the Republic of Cyprus Glafkos Clerides and the then leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Rauf Denktaş agreed, under the auspices of the United Nations, on a text known as the 31st July 1997 Agreement on Missing Persons. The Agreement recognizes the basic rights of the families of the missing to be informed on the fate of their loved ones and provides for the exchange of information on burial sites and the return of remains. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the Republic of Cyprus for the implementation of the agreed, the Turkish side, in this instance too, did not collaborate and the desired progress was not achieved.
In 2004, the CMP was reactivated and, consequently, the UN Secretary General appointed a UN Member (Third Member) in the Committee. The reactivation of the CMP resulted in an agreement regarding a program of exhumations, identification and return of identified Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots remains. The scientific processes regarding exhumation and identification of remains are carried out by bicommunal teams of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists, in cooperation with the Non-Governmental Organization EAAF (Equipo Argentino De Antropologia Forense). According to a press release issued by the CMP on 20 December 2013, “until today, the remains of more than 1.000 persons were exhumed, while more than 400 missing persons have been identified and their remains were returned to their families for burial”.
The position of the Cyprus Government remains that the families of the missing persons have every right to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones. With the return of the remains to the families for burial, a circle is completed, but yet unanswered questions remain on the tragic conclusion.
Despite the efforts of the Greek Cypriot side, the solution of the problem of the missing persons in Cyprus cannot be achieved without the essential contribution and collaboration of Turkey that has the necessary information and data required for the investigation of the fate of the Greek Cypriot missing persons. Until today, Turkey has not followed the necessary policies or taken any humanitarian decisions. On the contrary, it continues to demonstrate an intransigent stance and refuses to provide the necessary information.
The European Court of Human Rights, in Cyprus’ Fourth Interstate Application against Turkey, has found Turkey guilty of 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, three of which relate to the issue of Greek Cypriot missing persons. Specifically:
- Article 2 of the Convention (right of life) that refers to the failure of the Turkish authorities to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of the Greek Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life threatening circumstances.
- Article 5 (right of liberty and security) that refers to the failure of the Turkish authorities to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons who were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance.
- Article 3 that concerns the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Turkey’s silence in the face of the genuine concerns of the relatives of the missing amounted to inhuman treatment.
Due to Turkey’s failure to implement the Court’s judgment, on 7 June 2005 and 4 April 2007 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, responsible for the supervision of the implementation of the ECHR’s decisions, adopted Interim Resolutions calling on Turkey to take these measures that will lead to the effective investigation of the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons and will put an end to this humanitarian problem. Specifically, through the resolutions the Committee:
- Calls on Turkey to intensify its efforts with the aim to fully comply with the ECHR’s judgment on the Fourth Interstate Application.
- Underlines the urgency to achieve concrete results on the effective investigation into the fate of the missing persons.
- Decides to continue the supervision, by the Committee of Ministers, of the progress achieved so far (in the CMP framework), until all necessary measures have been taken.