By George Psyllides
The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) said on Wednesday it will review a case in which the remains of a Greek Cypriot killed in 1974 were allegedly mixed up with those of three other individuals.
The case had been reported by the family of Giorgos Fori, 55 at the time, who carried out their own genetic tests after doubts were raised over the number of fillings in his teeth.
The family said the remains were tested by the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, which determined that apart from Fori, they also included bones from three other individuals.
The jaw bone, however, did belong to Fori.
From the onset, the CMP, a bicommunal organisation, said if there had been a mistake, it had nothing to do with the DNA matching.
“The smaller (bones) ones were associated based on anthropological analysis,” the third member of the CMP, UN’s Paul-Henri Arni said during a news conference.
Testing all bones for DNA would exceed the CMP’s financial means and “more importantly, in the case of small bones, would require their destruction, leaving nothing or only small fragments that could be returned to families.”
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.
“The relevant question in this case is whether our anthropologists, outside of the DNA process, correctly associated a number of very small bones to the individual in question,” Arni said.
To assess this, the CMP has asked the family to provide the results of their tests, which will be reviewed with the help of a leading independent expert from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“The expert will also be asked to formulate suggestions to strengthen the CMP’s processes if and where appropriate,” Arni said.
“Our procedures are based on worldwide practice but there is always room for improvement.”
Fori’s remains were found in a well at Ornithi, near Ashia in the north, along with those of 37 other individuals listed as missing. Most of the remains had been removed, as has been the case in other locations, Arni said.
“What was left was a large number of small, isolated comingled remains – that is mixed up remains – which our scientists have tried to associate to separate individuals,” he added.
In the case in question, experts associated several larger bones, including a skull, with a number of very small bones.
The CMP tested the nine large bones and the smaller ones — nine — were associated through anthropological analysis.
It was not unusual for investigators to find comingled remains and it was not only due to deliberate removal, the Turkish Cypriot member of the CMP Gulden Plumer Kucuk said.
The remains got mixed in mass graves, scattered by farmers ploughing, or by wildlife, or swept away by water if buried in riverbeds.
Fori was listed among 83 people missing from the village of Ashia.
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 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.
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, tasked with locating the missing, has so far identified 430 Greek Cypriots and 138 Turkish Cypriots.