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Cyprus

Turkey attempting to shift its responsibilities on missing persons issue, Cyprus says

Officials from the Committee for Missing Persons searching for remains

A Turkish document to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers last month, asking for access to military areas in the Republic in the search for missing persons, was “disappointing and inadequate,” the  Cyprus government said in a memo to the committee.

“Turkey’s obligation to investigate the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons, as stipulated in the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, should not be confused with the CMP’s mission to investigate the fate of all missing persons,” the memo said.

The Turkish document, circulated recently, asked the Greek Cypriot side to demonstrate a “proactive approach” and grant permission to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) for exhumations in military areas in the government controlled areas.

It followed Ankara’s decision last November to grant access to 30 military areas in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus for excavations by the CMP over the next three years.

The move, the Cyprus government said, was a “belated gesture in the right direction”, which was not enough to solve the humanitarian issue of missing persons.

“Once more, Turkey is attempting to shift its own responsibilities onto the CMP,” the memo said.

“Clearly, the CMP does not form part of Turkey’s internal investigation on the issue of missing persons, as repeatedly suggested in its document.”

In light of the decisions expected to be made by the Committee of Ministers at Strasbourg next month, Nicosia demanded that Turkey be forced to investigate the fate of missing persons effectively, as stipulated by court rulings and a realistic working schedule.

The government of Cyprus asked for the pace of access-granting to the CMP in military zones to be picked up, and the lifting of a rule capping access to a maximum 10 sites per year.

As well, it asked for access to military records and “positive measures” that will avert more moving of remains in future.

In the memo, the long-standing demand for the payment of damages awarded by the ECHR in May 2014 to the relatives of missing persons and the enclaved was reiterated.

The Cypriot side argued the “paramount importance of the CMP receiving all relevant information from Turkey’s military and other records” that could help ascertain the fate of missing persons last seen captured by the Turkish army.

The CMP, the memo added, has not yet managed to submit a formal request to Turkey on this point, as this requires the consent of all three members.

With regard to the transfer of remains, which is proven by findings and the fragments of skeletons found, it is stated that the CMP has demonstrated that it required the use of heavy machinery.

“Undoubtedly, the removal of remains aimed at covering up the evidence to a crime,” the memo said.

According to the Cypriot document, remains have been found moved in four areas in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, but the cases cannot be considered closed until the entire bodies of missing persons have been found, identified, and returned to their families.

But Turkey’s refusal to give the CMP access to information on the sites to which bodies were moved has resulted in the wasting of valuable resources and time, the Cyprus government argued.

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