The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) is considering changes to the identification process to help minimise the risk of misidentifications, its Greek Cypriot member Nestoras Nestoros said.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) Nestoros said the CMP had asked two top scientists in the field, Dr William Goodwin and Dr Louis Prieto Carrero, to come up with specific recommendations on the methodology.
Goodwin, a Briton, and Carrero who is Spanish were in Cyprus recently and looked into the case of missing Greek Cypriot Georgios Foris whose family said they had been given additional remains, not his.
The two scientists reviewed the CMP`s Standard Operating Procedures with regard to complex and co-mingled cases.
Foris’ remains were exhumed from a well in Assia, along with the remains of 38 others.
His family contested the identification process and sought DNA re-testing on the remains by the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics.
The CMP responded by asking two independent experts, recommended by the International Committee of the Red Cross, to examine the case and review the CMP`s Standard Operating Procedures.
Nestoros told CNA that the experts` recommendations should be received shortly, adding that the goal was to have more accurate management of locating burial sites and secure a better identification process.
He said that once a burial site is retrieved and the exhumation process has taken place, the remains are transferred to the anthropological laboratory run by CMP for analysis. According to Nestoros this analysis is extremely difficult, if during the exhumation, no complete skeleton is found.
Nestoros an international protocol is followed. However there was always a percentage of risk especially when the burial site appears to have been previously disturbed.
He said the two experts from abroad had confirmed that Foris was correctly identified. At the same time, they determined that, despite the CMP`s best efforts, a number of small bones were incorrectly placed with the remains.
According to Nestoros, the list of missing persons includes 1,508 Greek Cypriots, 43 of whom went missing between 1963-`64 when intercommunal violence broke out in Cyprus. The list also includes 493 Turkish Cypriots, 229 of whom are thought to have been lost during the period 1963-1967.
Some 264 Turkish Cypriots went missing during 1974.
So far 435 identifications of Greek Cypriots were carried out and 138 on Turkish Cypriots. Approximately 200 cases are in the stage of anthropological or genetic analysis, while 100 Greek Cypriot missing cannot be identified and the remains of 800 missing persons are still to be located.
In most of the cases the families of the missing persons have given DNA for the appropriate analysis.
Thirty-four of the exhumation sites are in ‘military zones’ in the north.
However not all of these sites are actually military camps.
At the moment exhumations are being carried out in nine locations in the north and south of the island.
The exhumation process is carried out by seven teams in the north and two in the south. Each unit comprises four scientists, two Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots.
According to Nestoros, a huge problem that CMP was facing was the relocation and dispersion of remains.
He also said that there had been cases where missing persons were thought to have been buried in locations where buildings, roads and other installations have since been constructed.
Nestoros said the Cabinet has decided that excavations would be carried out at the Makedonitissa cemetery in Nicosia to remove a monument after reports that a Noratlas aircraft was buried there affer it was shot down during the invasion.
The Cabinet has also decided to carry out excavations at a mass grave in the St Constantinos and Eleni cemetery in Nicosia, where soldiers who died during the 1974 coup d` etat are buried. The excavation is set to begin end of April. (CNA )