Disappearance constitutes a multiple violation of basic and fundamental 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 the disappearance of the missing persons, but also guilty for the perpetuation of the suffering of the families by not disclosing information about the fate of their loved ones.
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 instructions and responsibility of the Turkish army. Furthermore, over 2000 prisoners of war were illegally transferred 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. In all these cases there exist well documented testimonies that the persons missing were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish army or in the hands of Turkish Cypriots acting under the Turkish occupation forces instruction and responsibility.
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 now mandated to investigate 1468 cases of Greek Cypriot and Greek missing persons and 502 cases of Turkish Cypriot missing persons. The CMP was established in 1981 in compliance with relevant UN General Assembly Resolutions (Resolution 3450(XXX) of 9/12/1975, Resolution 32/128 of 16/12/1977, Resolution 33/172 of 20/12/1978).
The CMP is a tripartite bi-communal investigatory committee comprised of 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 humanitarian mandate of the Committee, which operates under the auspices and with the participation of the United Nations, is to investigate and determine the fate of all the missing persons in Cyprus.
The UN Secretary-General appointed, on 15 June 1998, Ambassador Jean-Pierre Ritter to the position of the Third Member of the CMP, a post he held until his death on 17 January 2000. Ambassador Ritter was succeeded by Mr Pierre Guberan, who served as the third member ad interim until his retirement on 31 December 2005. During most of that period, the CMP was at a standstill because of lack of cooperation on the part of the Turkish Cypriot side (General Assembly Resolutions 36/164 of 16/12/1981 and 37/181 of 17/12/1982).
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 fulfill its mandate to establish the fate of even a single missing person, Amnesty International recommended that the Secretary–General should immediately set up 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.
The 31st July 1997 Agreement between President Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash
On the 31st July 1997, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Glafkos Clerides and the then leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr Rauf Denktash, 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 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 was not possible 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
Given the lack of progress in the implementation of the various agreements on the missing persons, 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, took a number of humanitarian steps.
In the summer of 1999, exhumations were conducted in two Nicosia cemeteries by the international non-governmental organization Physicians for Human Rights. As a result of these efforts, among several other skeletal remains that have been identified, the identity of 24 missing persons has also been established through the DNA process carried out by the laboratory of Forensic Genetics of the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics. 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.
On 4 May 2000, the Council of Ministers decided that the families of 126 missing persons, whose names had 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 families were officially notified of the reasons why the cases of their loved ones were not submitted to the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus. Investigations on these cases continue to date by the competent services of the Republic of Cyprus. Twenty two cases of these missing persons have been identified in the abovementioned exhumations of 1999.
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.
Measures towards determining the fate of the Turkish Cypriot Missing Persons
On 12 May 2003, the government published in the government Gazette the list of the names of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons. On 5 June 2003, it informed the relatives of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons that they could have access to the information secured by the government in relation to the investigations that had been carried out until then and to any possible results in order to determine the fate of their missing relatives.
Information in the possession of the competent government services concerning the fate of 201 Turkish Cypriot missing persons of the 1963-1967 period and of 1974 and of their burial places, have been officially conveyed to the International Committee of the Red Cross. It should be noted that these 201 cases were submitted by the Turkish Cypriots to the Committee on Missing Persons. The above information was conveyed through the United Nations to the Turkish Cypriot side in early 1998 in the framework of the implementation of the 31st July 1997 Agreement.
On 6 December 2002, an exploratory excavation of a burial site containing the remains of missing Turkish Cypriots was carried out in the Alaminos village, Larnaka district. This exploratory excavation was carried out by a team of the non-governmental Organization Physicians for Human Rights.
The government has made arrangements for the establishment of a DNA Bank as well as an Ante-mortem Data Bank and of other necessary information from the relatives of missing Turkish Cypriots and of others killed during the period 1963-1967 and 1974. This is done in order to strengthen the efforts for the investigation of the fate of missing persons and, depending on the case, the location of the burial site, the exhumation and identification of these remains and their handing over to the relatives for proper burial in accordance with the religious customs and traditions of the families concerned.
American missing persons of the Turkish Invasion
Among the 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 US Citizens who had been missing from 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 US 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.
Following various attempts and unilateral measures taken by the Greek Cypriot side on the issue of the missing persons, and in the framework of the July 31st 1997 Agreement, the UN Secretary General reaffirmed his interest in the problem of the missing persons in Cyprus and submitted his proposals by letters he sent to the President of the Republic of Cyprus and to the Turkish Cypriot leader in December 2003 and in August 2004. The UN Secretary-General’s proposals had as an object to contribute to the achievement of progress in the efforts and to the creation of the necessary momentum in the direction of solving the humanitarian problem of the missing persons.
On 10 August 2004, in his letter of reply to the UN Secretary-General, the President of the Republic reiterated that he accepted his proposals, pointing out that the Greek Cypriot side would do everything that was possible for their implementation. The government of Cyprus expressed its gratitude to the UN Secretary-General for his interest and efforts in solving the problem for the benefit of the families and for the restoration and the full respect of their human rights.
Reactivation of the CMP
After being inactive for nearly five years, the Committee of Missing Persons reconvened on 30 August 2004. According to a press release issued by the Committee (30.08.2004), the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot members of the CMP reconfirmed their full commitment and ultimate goal to resolve the humanitarian issue that equally affects the families in both communities. On 17 November 2004, the CMP appealed to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to communicate to the Office of the Committee any relevant information which might be in their possession concerning the fate or the remains of Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot persons listed as missing, pointing out that “all information given will be treated as strictly confidential.”
As a result of the above developments, on 14 April 2006 the UN announced its decision to appoint a new Third Member of the CMP. The Security Council, in its resolution 1687/2006, adopted on 15/6/2006, reiterated its call “to the parties to assess and address the humanitarian issue of the missing persons with due urgency and seriousness”, and welcomed “the resumption of the activities of the CMP since August 2004, as well as the appointment by the Secretary General of a Third Member”.
Mr Christophe Girod, a Swiss national, who served with ICRC in many parts of the world, officially took up his duties during a formal event held on 3 July 2006 at the residence of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Mr Michael Moller, within the United Nations Protected Area. The event was attended by the President of the Republic Mr Tassos Papadopoulos and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Mehmet Ali Talat, who jointly appealed to the international community for urgent and generous contributions to the work of the Committee.
The CMP has already effectuated a number of exhumations, while its new anthropological laboratory has been completed and equipped and has started analyzing exhumed remains. The archaeological and anthropological scientific work is done under the guidance of the Argentinian international group EAAF. On the other hand, the genetic analyses and the identification of the skeletal remains at the DNA level are carried out by the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics located at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus has demonstrated its support to the efforts of the CMP, by the extended funding of the Committee. Since September 2005, approximately 700,000 euro have been donated to the CMP, while the government plans to enhance its contribution even more in the coming years.
The reactivation of the CMP has also raised the interest of European countries, willing to contribute to its humanitarian work. Britain has contributed with a US $50,000 and a GBP £45,000 donation, while the government of the Federal Republic of Germany has supported the CMP with 100,000 euro, for the project of exhumations and identification.
The renewed activity of the CMP, reinforced by the recent appointment of M. Christophe Girod as Third Member of the Committee, constitutes an important step towards determining the fate of the missing persons in Cyprus. However, the CMP’s inquiries are limited to Cyprus alone and not to Turkey, where, as it has been decidedly documented, some of the missing were taken and held prisoners after their arrest by the occupation forces.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus welcomes the reactivation of the CMP and expresses its hope that the Committee’s work will shed some light to the humanitarian issue of the missing persons. At the same time, the government stresses that the CMP’s mandate does not permit it to conduct an effective investigation and calls on the United Nations in particular and the international community in general to ensure that the necessary pressure is exerted on Turkey, to carry out an immediate and effective investigation for the ascertainment of the fate of the missing persons, as provided by the ECHR judgment (see below).
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».
Due to Turkey’s lack of compliance with the Court’s judgment, on 7 June 2005 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, at the 928th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies, adopted the first ever in an Interstate case, Interim Resolution concerning the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of 10 May 2001 in the Fourth Interstate Appeal of Cyprus against Turkey.
The Interim Resolution demanded, amongst other things, effective measures to be taken by Turkey to deal at last with the tragically unsolved humanitarian problem of missing persons, 30 years after the Turkish invasion.
Asks Turkey to intensify its efforts with a view to the full and complete execution of the judgment,
Underlines in particular the urgency of achieving concrete results in respect of effective investigations into the fate of the missing persons,
Decides to continue the supervision of progress accomplished until all necessary measures have been taken.
In its effort to avoid compliance with the judgment, Turkey has repeatedly made reference to the work of the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP), established in 1981 in compliance with relevant Genaral Assembly Resolutions. However, both the Commission, in its Report, and thereafter the Court, in its judgment, after a thorough examination, have found that the Committee of Missing Persons is not the forum where an effective investigation can be conducted.
Turkey, in her argumentation in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, is presenting the CMP as a substitute for the mechanism that she is obligated to set up herself. Unfortunately, with such attitude Turkey continues to evade her responsibilities for the investigation of the fate of the missing persons and for providing all the relevant information on the steps taken to remedy the violations for which the Court held Turkey responsible, which means to pursue the necessary investigations to establish the fate of the Greek Cypriots who went missing as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
In this context, the Interim Resolution recalls that the Court, in par.135 of its judgment in the Cyprus v. Turkey case, found that “
the respondent state΄s procedurals obligations at issue cannot be discharged through its contribution to the investigatory work of the CMP. Like the Commission, the Court notes that, although the CMP΄s procedures are undoubtedly useful for the humanitarian purpose for which they were established, they are not of themselves sufficient to meet the standard of an effective investigation required by Article 2 of the Convention, especially in view of the narrow scope of that body΄s investigations.”
The above Interim Resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regarding the subject, which called on Turkey “to envisage the necessary measures, further to its contribution to the work of the CMP, so that the effective investigation required by the Court’s judgment can be conducted as soon as possible”, was recalled in the latest UN Secretary General’s Report on the Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights Decision 2005/103 (E/CN/2006/31, dated 27/03/2006).
“Study on the Right to the Truth”: Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The issue of the missing persons in Cyprus and the ECHR judgment in the case of Cyprus vs Turkey has offered grounds for important conclusions at international level. According to the “Study on the Right to the Truth”, closely linked to the issue of missing persons, dated 8/2/2006, “
the right to the truth has been characterized as an inalienable right by the Set of Principles and in the jurisprudence of various intergovernmental bodies and courts at international regional and national levels
A large number of Courts at national and regional levels have characterized the State’s failure to inform the victims’ relatives about the fate and whereabouts of a victim of a disappearance as amounting to torture or ill-treatment, which is universally recognized as a non-derogable prohibition
The above Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, refers to the European Parliament Resolution on the Missing persons in Cyprus (11/1/1983) as well as the abovementioned European Court of Human Rights’ judgment on the 4th Interstate case of Cyprus v. Turkey: “
The European Court of Human Rights has not addressed the issue of the right to the truth explicitly but has inferred such a right as part of the right to be free from torture or ill-treatment, the right to an effective remedy and the right to an effective investigation and to be informed of the results. The Court has held that a State’s failure to conduct an effective investigation “aimed at clarifying the whereabouts and fate
of “missing persons who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances” constitutes a continuing violation of its procedural obligation to protect the right to life.
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 evidence. For this reason the government of Cyprus could not 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 proper burial.
This approach is not confined to missing Greek Cypriots but also to missing Turkish Cypriots. In 2001, Foreign Minister Kasoulides expressed the government’s readiness to proceed with 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. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Rauf Denktash, stated then 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 has demonstrated its support to the efforts of determining the fate of the missing persons by its positive stance and continued support to all efforts aiming at ascertaining the fate of the missing persons, by taking numerous unilateral steps towards the issue and, currently, by practically supporting the work of the CMP.
The government appeals to all concerned for their co-operation, especially for the cooperation of the government of the Republic of Turkey, which, as the state responsible for their disappearance, based on the ECHR judgment on the case of Cyprus v. Turkey, has all the evidence and information 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.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus also believes that it is time for the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to assume a more active role and set strict deadlines, demand information and lay down steps that need to be taken for Turkey΄s full compliance with the ECHR judgment. The Committee of Ministers should, therefore, ask Turkey, at this stage, to provide the following:
1. Lists including the
number of Greek Cypriot prisoners of war who were transported to Turkey and not only the cases of those referred to in ICRC lists who were then released from Turkish prisons and transported back to Cyprus in the presence of ICRC delegates.
2. Concrete information on the cases of Greek Cypriot prisoners of war who have been listed in ICRC documents and about whom no cogent answers have been given so far.
3. Concrete information concerning the prisoners of war who were arrested and transported to Turkey before the full activation of ICRC.
4. Military reports and records prepared by the Turkish army in 1974 concerning information about the number of prisoners of war transported to Turkey and detained in mainland Turkish prisons.
5. Provide to any International Organization, reports prepared by the Turkish army, concerning information from “clearing” the battlefields, including documentation pertaining to the number of the dead Greek Cypriots and the number of Greek Cypriot prisoners of war.
6. Reports by the Turkish army, concerning information including the number of Greek Cypriots and Greek officers who were killed or arrested in 1974.
7. Information concerning the number of prisoners of war who were detained in Turkish mainland prisons and transferred to Turkish hospitals for medical reasons.
8. Photographs of each Greek Cypriot transported and detained in mainland Turkey in 1974. According to information reported by Greek Cypriot prisoners of war, who were detained in Turkish mainland prisons and were then released and transported back to Cyprus, the Turkish army took 2 photos of each prisoner.
If Turkey fails, once more, to respond to the aforementioned, the government of the Republic of Cyprus believes that it is time to proceed right away to establish a method and a procedure that should be followed by Turkey, under the very close supervision and scrutiny of the Committee, in order to carry out an immediate and effective investigation into the fate of the missing persons.
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Bucharest