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Cyprus

Remains of some missing persons misidentified (updated)

THE Commissioner of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed on Thursday that the remains of two missing persons have been misidentified.

In a statement, reacting to media reports about the error, the commissioner said the misidentified remains had been unearthed in the south of the island.

DNA testing by the Cyprus Institute for Neurology and Genetics (Cing) had wrongly matched the remains to two specific persons.

However, the actual remains of the two persons were subsequently found in the north, the statement said.

The correct remains have since been returned to the families.

The CMP said the wrong identifications were not carried out by the outfit but were part of a programme conducted by the Greek Cypriot authorities prior to the initiation, in 2006, of the CMP effort to locate, exhume and identify 2003 missing persons from both communities.

These misidentifications have come to light as the result of recent identifications by the CMP of the correct remains of the two persons that had been exhumed by the CMP.

Back in 2015 the Cing was asked to confirm prior testing on remains delivered to it. After re-checking, the institute alerted authorities as well as the relatives concerned that the identification of 15 remains was “doubtful.”

The two cases now confirmed as misidentifications are part of those 15 – all Greek Cypriots and Greek nationals.

The remains in question relate to material delivered to Cing in the 2004-2005 period.

In 2015, the government asked for a review of all cases.

Of the 15 cases designated uncertain, the remains of six persons have to date been handed over to the families.

The Commissioner’s office assured relatives of missing persons that it has taken all necessary steps to ensure that previous matches, if deemed doubtful, are being re-examined.

“We again convey our sympathies to those who have been caused grief due to errors and omissions in the past,” the statement read.

Nestoras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), told the state broadcaster that DNA testing on remains is now carried out in the United States.

He said the laboratory used in the United States employs cutting-edge technologies as well as the reconciliation method, where three different parameters are reconciled to eliminate the chances of an error.

The three parameters are: the locational circumstances of remains, anthropological tests, and genetic tests.

It is not the first time that remains have been misidentified. In February last year, the CMP said it found that the remains returned to a family in 2009 belonged to the wrong person.

At the time it said tests conducted on a set of remains exhumed in 2015 indicated “that they belonged to a person who had already been identified and returned to relatives in 2009.”

The finding had prompted a review of the case by the CMP with the support of US-based laboratory Bode Cellmark Forensics to verify the DNA analysis which had been carried out by Cing.

Cing had issued an apology, stressing that identifying small pieces of bone that had been exposed to the environment for over 40 years was a continuous challenge.

Some 500 Turkish Cypriots and 1,500 Greek Cypriots disappeared during armed clashes in the 1960s and during a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aiming to unite Cyprus with Greece.

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