Disappearance constitutes a multiple violation of basic and fundamental principles and norms of Human Rights. These violations are not confined to the rights of the missing persons but also extend to the rights of their families. Those who commit this crime are not only guilty for their disappearance, but also guilty for the perpetuation of the suffering of the families by not disclosing information about the fate of their relatives.
Greek Cypriot and Greek missing persons of the Turkish invasion
In human terms, the worst consequence of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in the summer of 1974 is the tragic humanitarian problem of the missing persons and their families. During and after the Turkish invasion, thousands of Greek Cypriots were arrested and detained in concentration camps in Cyprus by the Turkish army and by Turkish Cypriot paramilitary organizations acting under the control of the Turkish army. Furthermore, over 2000 prisoners of war were illegally taken to Turkey and detained in Turkish prisons. Some of them were not released and are still missing. Hundreds of other Greek Cypriots, both soldiers and civilians (including old people, women and children) disappeared in the areas under Turkish occupation and are still missing. There are hundreds of testimonies from eyewitnesses documenting the arrest of missing persons by the Turkish army or by Turkish Cypriots acting under its control.
The role of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP)
The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations, is mandated to investigate approximately 1600 cases of Greek Cypriot and Greek missing persons and 800 cases of Turkish Cypriot missing persons. The CMP was established in 1981 in compliance with relevant UN General Assembly Resolutions. Due to procedural obstacles it started its investigative work in 1984. The CMP is a tripartite intercommunal investigatory committee comprised by 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.
The Greek Cypriot representative to the CMP submitted for investigation 1493 cases and the Turkish Cypriot representative submitted 500 cases. Recently a number of Greek-Cypriots have been identified usind DNA methodologies to bring the number of missing persons to 1431.
For more information regarding the CMP and its Project on the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains of Missing Persons in Cyprus, please visit: http://www.cmp-cyprus.org/
The 31st July 1997 Agreement between President Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas
On the 31st July 1997, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Glafkos Clerides and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr Rauf Denktas, concluded in the presence and in the residence of the Chief of Mission of the United Nations Operations in Cyprus, an agreement on the missing persons.
The two leaders declared that they respect the right of the families of the missing to be informed of the fate of their loved ones in a convincing and conclusive manner. Furthermore, the two leaders recognised the right of those families whose missing members are proved to be dead, to be given (to the best extent possible) their remains for proper burial. For this reason the agreement provides for the exchange of information on the location of graves of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons and for the preparation of the necessary arrangements leading to the return of the remains of missing persons to their relatives.
The representatives of the two sides, appointed for the implementation of the agreement, held two meetings during which initial information on burial sites was exchanged. Unfortunately, during the second meeting, the Turkish Cypriot representative advanced new preconditions not envisaged in the agreement, and consequently it has not been able to implement the agreement further. This is noted in the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus for the period from 8 December 1997 to 8 June 1998 where it is clearly stated that as a result of the position taken by the Turkish Cypriot side no progress has been made towards the implementation of the 31st July 1997 agreement.
Unilateral Humanitarian steps taken by the Government of Cyprus
The Government of Cyprus, in its ardent wish to see progress towards a solution of the tragic problem of the missing persons in Cyprus and in its effort to give even to a very small number of families some concrete answers concerning the fate of their loved ones, has taken a number of humanitarian steps.
In the summer of 1999, exhumations were conducted from two Nicosia cemeteries. The exhumations were carried out and completed by the non-governmental organization Physicians for Human Rights. Due to the circumstances relating to their death, which prevented a proper identification at the time of burial, a number of persons, killed during the Turkish invasion, were buried as unknown soldiers in these two cemeteries. As a result of this effort, the identity of thirty missing persons has been established through the DNA process. Twelve out of the thirty instances involve cases of missing persons, which were submitted to the CMP. Efforts are continuing until all the exhumed remains are scientifically identified and returned to their families for proper burial.
The exhumations were conducted for purely humanitarian reasons in order to answer the legitimate rights of the families concerned and end their agony and uncertainty.
Other Humanitarian Steps taken by the Government of Cyprus
The Government of Cyprus has taken further unilateral steps in connection with humanitarian matters. These steps are taken in the same humanitarian spirit and for the same reasons that the exhumations, in the two Nicosia cemeteries, took place in 1999.
On the 4th May 2000, the Council of Ministers, decided that the families of 126 missing persons, whose names have not been submitted to the Committee on Missing Persons, be informed about the contents of the file of each of these cases, as well as for the reasons for which these cases were not submitted for investigation to the CMP. The notification of the families was completed in July 2000, and the views of the families are now under examination by a Committee established for this reason.
Moreover, the Council of Ministers decided to publish the list of persons whose names are included in the records of the Government Service for Missing Persons as persons whose fate is still unknown. The list was officially published in the Government Gazette on 10th July 2000.
The Council of Ministers also decided to appoint a Committee with the mandate to prepare, lists of Greek Cypriots and Greek nationals who were killed during or as a result of the July 1974 coup d’ etat and the Turkish invasion. The Committee, has held a number of meetings, so far, and is expected to fulfil its mandate soon.
The policy of the Government of Cyprus
The aim of the Government is to establish the fate of each and every missing person on the basis of concrete and verifiable proof. For this reason the Government of Cyprus cannot accept the notion of the "presumption of death" for the solution of this humanitarian problem. Such a notion is contrary to humanitarian principles and practice since it does not answer the legitimate rights of the families to be informed of the fate of their loved ones in a convincing and conclusive manner and to be given the remains of their loved ones, if proved to be dead, for burial.
This approach is not confined to missing Greek Cypriots but also to missing Turkish Cypriots. According to the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, has recently stated that the Government is ready to proceed to the exhumation of missing Turkish Cypriots killed during the 1974 invasion and buried in areas, which are under the control of the Government of Cyprus. Moreover, Mr Kasoulides appealed to the relatives of Turkish Cypriot missing persons to give blood samples, and ante mortem information, in order to help scientists identify remains through the DNA process. Regretably, the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Rauf Denktas, stated that the Turkish Cypriots will not give blood, "not even a single bit of dust", for this purpose ("Yeni Demokrat" Newspaper, 26.6.2001).
Irrespective of the negative attitude of the Turkish side, the Government of Cyprus appeals to all concerned for their co-operation, especially for the cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Turkey, which has the evidence and the answers concerning their fate. Turkey has the legal and moral responsibility to co-operate in the efforts to restore the human rights and dignity of the missing persons and their families in Cyprus.
European Court of Human Rights’ Judgment (10 May 2001)
The European Commission of Human Rights had examined the issue of the missing persons after four applications by Cyprus against Turkey (Applications Nos. 6780/ 74, 6950/ 75, 8007/ 77, 25781/ 94). The reports of the European Commission of Human Rights adopted in 1976, 1983 and 1999 respectively had stressed that Turkey violated fundamental articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In the Fourth Interstate Application of Cyprus against Turkey (Application No. 25781/94), the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled, on 10 May 2001, that Turkey’s authorities had never investigated claims by relatives that missing persons had disappeared after being detained, in circumstances where there was real cause to fear for their welfare. Moreover, the ECHR ruled that the Turkish authorities’ failure to investigate effectively, with an aim to clarify, the whereabouts and fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons, who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances, was a continuing violation of the procedural obligation under Article 2 of the Convention to protect the right to life. Furthermore, the Court ruled that the failure of the authorities of the Republic of Turkey was a continuing violation of Article 5 of the Convention in respect of any missing persons who were arguably in custody at the time they disappeared. The Court concluded that the silence of the authorities… in the face of the real concerns of the relatives of the missing persons attains a level of severity which can only be categorized as inhuman treatment within the meaning of Article 3.
Proposal by Amnesty International concerning the Cypriot Missing Persons
In August 1996, Amnesty International submitted to the United Nations a proposal to establish an effective commission of inquiry to investigate disappearances, missing persons, and deliberate and arbitrary killings in Cyprus. Based on the fact that the Committee on Missing Persons failed to fulfil its mandate by not establishing the fate of even a single missing person, Amnesty International recommended that the Secretary – General should immediately establish the aforementioned committee of inquiry, which would fully satisfy the international standards in investigating the various cases. Furthermore, Amnesty International recommended that the parties participating in this commission should ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice, and that the victims or relatives are fairly and adequately compensated.
American missing persons of the Turkish Invasion
Among these missing after the Turkish invasion, are five American citizens of Cypriot origin whose cases have been submitted to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus. Based on an Act of Congress dated October 19, 1994 concerning United States citizens missing in Cyprus, signed by the President of the USA, the White House mandated the Department of State to carry out an investigation into their fate, a task that was assigned to Ambassador Robert Dillon. In May 1998, President Clinton signed and submitted to Congress the President’s Report to Congress on the investigation of the whereabouts of the U.S. Citizens who had been missing form Cyprus since 1974. According to the Dillon Report, the investigation fully ascertained the fate of one of the five missing American citizens, Andreas Kassapis, whose remains were identified after DNA testing and were returned to his family for burial on 22 June 1998.
At the end of the Dillon Report it is clearly stated that the U.S. Government will continue to pursue any additional leads it receives on their [US Citizens] fate. Based on this statement, the Cyprus Government has repeatedly requested the full implementation of the provisions of the 1994 Act of Congress concerning the remaining missing US citizens in Cyprus and the completion of the investigation of the four pending cases so that their fate is determined, as in the case of Kassapis, on the basis of concrete and convincing evidence.