The problem: Over 900 people remain missing since Turkey invaded and occupied a large part of Cyprus in 1974.
This tragic problem of a purely humanitarian nature remains unresolved because Turkey, in full disregard of international conventions and declarations, does not allow effective investigations to be carried out. Persuasive information, which could determine the fate of missing persons, has not been revealed. Wives and mothers of the missing, like latter day Penelopes, have been waiting for news of their loved ones, living life in a state of limbo.
Of the people who were missing, over 600 have been found in mass graves but are as yet unidentified...
Antoniades Georgios, Avraam Loizos, Kalli Stavros, Kambouri Haralambos, Markou Tassos, Neokleous Pavlos
Solomou Solomakis, Solomou Pavlos, Strouthou Demetris, Varnava Andreas, Zacharia Panayiotis.
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Young army conscripts, of the Cyprus National Guard, army reservists, as well as civilians, including women and children, were captured by the invading Turkish armed forces during July and August of 1974, or disappeared during the invasion or after the cessation of hostilities, in areas under the control of the Turkish army. Some were listed as prisoners of war by the International Red Cross, but they have not been heard of since. Many were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish army or Turkish Cypriots acting under the Turkish occupation forces instruction and responsibility.
Some were listed as prisoners of war by the International Red Cross, but they have not been heard of since. Many were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish army or Turkish Cypriots acting under the Turkish occupation forces instruction and responsibility.
The UN and the CMP
A number of UN Resolutions were passed calling for all parties involved to cooperate towards bringing an end to this purely humanitarian problem. In 1981 the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established, in compliance with relevant UN General Assembly resolutions. 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. 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 CMP is made up of three members - one representative from each side and a third member, who is designated by the UN Secretary-General.
In October 1994, the US Senate unanimously adopted an Act for the ascertainment of the fate of five US citizens missing since the Turkish invasion. In the investigation that followed the remains of one US citizen’s were discovered in January 1998 in the occupied part of Cyprus. His remains were sent to the US for DNA testing, identification and the return of his body to his family for burial . The other four US-citizens are still missing.
The European Court of 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 the Turkish authorities’ :
• Article 2, for failing to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the nine applicants, who disappeared in life threatening circumstances.
• Article 3, for subjecting the remaining nine applicants, relatives of the missing, to inhuman and degrading treatment by not informing them about the fate of their loved ones.
• Article 5, for failing to conduct an effective investigation into the whereabouts and fate of the nine applicants [in respect of whom there is an arguable claim that they have been deprived of their liberty and security at the time of their disappearance].
On 10 January 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered its judgment in the case of Varnava and Others v Turkey by which Turkey was found guilty of violating the rights of nine Greek-Cypriot missing persons and their relatives. The nine were seen alive after their capture by the Turkish army in Cyprus and in Turkey where they had been transported as prisoners of war.
Interim Resolution Owing to Turkey’s lack of compliance with the Court’s judgment, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted, on 7 June 2005, the first ever in an Interstate case, Interim Resolution concerning the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of 10 May 2001.
The Interim Resolution demanded effective measures to be taken by Turkey to deal at last with the unsolved humanitarian problem of missing persons, 30 years after the Turkish invasion. The Resolution:
- 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
Turkey’s Response to the ECHR judgement
In her effort to avoid compliance with the judgment, Turkey has repeatedly made reference to the work of the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP). However, both the European Commission, in its Report, and thereafter the Court, in its judgment, after a thorough examination, have found that the CMP is not the forum where effective investigations can be conducted.
The Relative plea to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
To demand and set strict deadlines for Turkey to fully comply with the ECHR judgment. The Committee of Ministers should, therefore, ask Turkey to investigate and provide information:
- Concerning the number of dead Greek Cypriots, whose bodies were found at the battlefields and information regarding their place of burial
- The fate and whereabouts of ALL prisoners, military and civilians, declared and undeclared, who have not yet been released
The renewed activity of the CMP, reinforced by the appointment of M. Christophe Girod as Third Member of the Committee, resulted in the exhumation of around four hundred bodies. Over one hundred have been identified through DNA testing and returned to their relatives for burial. This development constitutes an important step towards determining the fate of some of the missing persons. However, the effective investigations demanded by the European Court of Human Rights from Turkey, cannot be limited to the exhumation of a number of bodies. Additionally the CMP activity does not extent to the mainland of Turkey where prisoners, now missing have been transported by the invading force.