By Jean Christou
THE government yesterday signed a deal with the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING) for conclusive testing on remains exhumed as part of the project being overseen by the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP).
Although the CMP has an agreement with a Bosnian lab for testing the remains of those thought to be missing persons, some of these tests don’t go far enough because the gene pool in Cyprus is so small, according to sources.
“They could end up with 50 people with the same or similar genetic characteristics,” said the source, adding that the tests in some cases need to go further.
The tests to be run by CING will be more complex and accurate in narrowing down the identification rather than using a standard set of genetic markers.
The Greek Cypriot member of the CMP is responsible for registering the final identifications of Greek Cypriots with the committee. The agreement signed yesterday works outside of the CMP mandate, but it is also part of the overall official identification process.
The CMP has three members, one each from the two sides plus a third member selected by the International Committee of the Red Cross and appointed by the UN Secretary-General.
Up until 2012, CING had been contracted to carry out all CMP testing, which began in 2007. The decision to move the DNA testing to Bosnia came after repeated efforts to close the gap in a long-standing contractual dispute between CING and the CMP.
The dispute stemmed from the fact the CMP wanted to introduce new, stricter standards in the identification process from 2008 to mirror internationally-recognised best practices.
While some demands were met, disagreement remained on a large number, including the requirement to hand over copies of the genetic profiles of relatives of the missing, and carry out ‘blind testing’ in the DNA matching process.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, the CING board decided in May 2012 to end their cooperation with the CMP. The deal with the Bosnian lab was signed in July the same year.
Yesterday’s deal for additional testing was signed by Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and CING’s chairman of the board, Christos Eliades.
A total of 2,001 people were recorded as missing after the 1974 invasion – 1,508 Greek Cypriots and 493 Turkish Cypriots. According to the CMP to date, the remains of over 1,040 individuals have been exhumed and 479 have been identified and returned for burial.
Exhumations are carried out on both sides by bi-communal teams made up of over 55 archaeologists and anthropologists.
The CMP does not assign a cause of death or attribute responsibility. Its objective is purely humanitarian.