Cyprus Mail

Missing committee calls for more funds in record year

THE REMAINS of 72 missing persons were identified during the first six months of 2013, indicating the total number of identifications this year will reach a record high since the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established, CMP members said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters, Greek Cypriot member Aristos Aristotelous, Turkish Cypriot member Gülden Plümer Küçük and UN member Paul-Henri Arni highlighted the need for extra resources to be able to continue to work effectively.

The CMP members said since 2006, the average number of identified missing persons per year was 56, hence the aspirations for a record high in 2013.

The highest number of identifications was recorded in 2009 when 86 missing persons were identified and their remains returned to their families.

According to the committee members, people are still coming forward with new information on missing persons. They called on anyone who has information to come forward, promising full confidentiality.

Since 2006, 983 human remains have been recovered, corresponding to 49 per cent of all missing persons on the official list concerning both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, said Küçük.

She added that from the 983 remains found, 409 were identified and returned to their families, counting for over 20 per cent of the total number of missing.

From those returned, 388 were Greek Cypriot missing persons and 71 Turkish Cypriot missing persons.

“Since January, we have identified 72 people”, she said, adding that “it’s a record year”.

For his part Arni spoke of the changes the CMP has made to its operations.

“We have doubled the space at the lab,” he said, adding, “We have hired six new scientists, which means a total of 60 from both communities in the lab and in the field”.

According to the Swiss member of the CMP, there are permanently 25 scientists working in the lab and 35 in the field.

Referring to the problems the CMP faced with regard to identifications last year he said that “all members are quite satisfied with the results of the bone sampling process carried out by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia-Herzegovina”.

Despite the increasing success of the CMP, he said: “We need more resources.”

Arni argued that beyond the €2.5 million received each year, they need an extra €300,000 per year.

“Without it we cannot sustain the present volume of work,” he said.

To that effect, the CMP has already conveyed its needs to the European Parliament and the European Commission, while at the same time, trying to broaden the CMP’s donor base.

According to Aristotelous, there are two significant challenges the CMP is up against; time and resources.

The former AKEL MP said the work of the CMP was appreciated by many countries and organisations.

As a peace-building measure, it is considered a model for other regions where conflict exists, he said, adding that that the CMP has been visited by scientists from Serbia, Kosovo, Iraq and Libya.

He also referred to efforts to increase awareness in society, particularly among the youth. The Committee has already produced an informative leaflet on the missing which was distributed to 50,000 pupils across the island.

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