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Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Family shocked over remains mix-up

By George Psyllides

The family of a Greek Cypriot who went missing during the 1974 Turkish invasion said that along with his remains, found in the north in October 2014, they were also given those of three other people.

The family also accused the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) of not helping them when they raised questions.

It started when Giorgos Fori’s son Christos saw the remains and was not sure if his father had so many fillings in his teeth.

The family decided to ask the CMP to review the case to be certain that the remains belonged to their father before they buried them.

It accused the CMP of not providing any assistance, even after the family found laboratories overseas that would double check.

The labs told them that permission from Cypriot authorities and a special procedure was needed before the remains could be sent.

The family also accused the CMP of trying to prevent them from going to the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING), which had handled the genetic testing in the past.

The remains were eventually tested by CING, which determined that apart from Fori, they also included bones from three other individuals.

The jaw bone however, did belong to Fori.

Fori’s granddaughter, Melina, asked whether the CMP could assure “that my grandfather’s remains are not buried in the graves of other missing persons.”
“In our hands we now have bones belonging to three other people. I consider it unethical to have these remains while someone else is looking for them.”

Nestoras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP, said it was not a matter of the wrong DNA results.

From the 18 fragments returned to the family, nine had undergone genetic tests.

“It appears that bones that did not undergo testing belonged to other persons,” he said.

The ‘mistake’ was made in the anthropological lab in Nicosia, which tries to link the remains between them, he said.

Nestoros said the protocol was the same followed by labs worldwide – not all fragments undergo genetic testing.

To do so it would cost millions more, he said. The current practice was the one followed by all labs.

In the past, for 167 matches, the CMP had to send 2,800 samples to the lab in Bosnia, at a cost of more than a million dollars, he said.

The remains of 55-year-old Fori were found in October in a mass grave at Ornithi, in the occupied north.

They were in one of two wells, which experts determined contained the remains of 71 people.

Only seven complete skeletons were found. The rest of the remains were smaller fragments, apparently the result of a unilateral excavation by the Turkish side to get rid of evidence.

The CMP has so far matched the remains of 68 people.

Fori is listed among 83 people missing from the village of Ashia – not far from where his remains were found.

He was last seen on August 21, 1974, a month after the Turkish invasion, at the Pavlides Garage in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia where he was held captive.

The relocation of the remains from Ornithi was condemned by the European Parliament as “a great disrespect to the missing persons and a gross violation of the rights of their families to finally know the real conditions of the deaths of their loved ones”.

It urged the Turkish government “to immediately cease removal of the remains from the mass graves and to comply with international law, international humanitarian law and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgments” and “to fully implement its obligation following the decision of the ECHR to compensate the families of the missing persons”.

Around 2,000 people – 1,508 Greek Cypriots and 493 Turkish Cypriots – were listed as missing since the intercommunal fighting in the 60s and the invasion.

The CMP, a bicommunal organisation tasked with locating the missing, has so far identified 430 Greek Cypriots and 138 Turkish Cypriots.

The CMP’s terms of reference do not include attributing responsibility for the deaths of any missing persons or making findings as to the cause of death.

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