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Republic of Cyprus
Missing Persons

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 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 Resolution.

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.

For more information regarding the CMP and its Project on the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains of Missing Persons in Cyprus, please visit the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus

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.

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. Regrettably, 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).

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.

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.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus to the Hague