The issue of missing persons can often be toxic and can stand in the way of reconciliation and political stability, the third member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), Paul-Henri Arni has said.
He was speaking at the opening of a two-day specialised workshop on missing persons being attended by 60 participants from more than 27 countries, according to CNA.
The workshop is hosted at Ledra Palace Hotel in the buffer zone and is organised by the Committee on Missing Person (CMP) and ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The workshop titled “Mechanisms for Missing Persons: Clarifying the fate and supporting families” brings together actors directly involved in the search for missing persons, management of the dead and identification of bodies and support for the families, representatives of the families or family associations and experts and leading institutions on the matter.
Over the next two days, the participants will be exchanging methodologies, experiences, lessons, strategic and practical approaches on setting up effective mechanisms to ensure coordination and integrated response to search for missing persons, identification of bodies and response to the needs of the families.
The participants will also visit the CMP Anthropological Laboratory.
Arni, in his address, told participants that the worst wound of war from which there was no recovery and the only one that gets worse with time, was the issue of missing persons.
“At the political level the issue can be very toxic and stand in the way of reconciliation and political stability between countries and communities all over the world,” he said.
He added that over the past 13 years lessons had been drawn at the CMP on what needed to be done and these included political will which, he pointed out, “is the most important ingredient to create the conditions necessary to finding, identifying and returning missing persons to their loved ones”.
Arni said a mechanism such as the CMP needed a mandate and a centralised structure for a coordinated strategy and successful operations. He also said that access to civilian, military and police decision-makers and archives must be granted. He also spoke of the funding, which he said, must be available over many years.
According to CMP data as of September 2019, the period between 2006-2019 the remains of 1,224 people were exhumed and 960 were identified.
The total number of Greek Cypriot missing persons is 1,510 out of which 815 are still missing. Turkish Cypriot missing total 492 and 265 have been identified. So far exhumations took place in 1,298 sites and in 2007 marked the year were the biggest number of remains were found in the sites excavated.
The Turkish Cypriot Member of tripartite CMP, Gulden Plumer Kucuk said experts’ discussions to follow and the exchange of good practices would definitely be useful to all and will have an added value to everyone’s job to identify the fate of the missing persons.
She added that delivering results was crucial for the CMP and there are realities on the ground to be taken into consideration. According to Kucuk, the financial support of the CMP is also crucial for its sustainability.
Leonidas Pantelides, the Greek Cypriot member, briefed the participants on the role of information in the project of CMP said that they act as police investigators with the only difference that they don’t look into the cause of death or the perpetrators but look into finding burial sites.
He explained that the investigation is carried out separately in the two communities because usually, the informants do not want the other community to know that they came forward with information. Then, when the information is collected, is shared with the other community, the analysts, the archaeologists and their assistants and a case is built. The process moves to the other phases of locating sites, exhuming remains and identifying them.
According to Pantelides old information from the events of 1963-63 which lasted a few months, and the 1974 Turkish invasion which lasted a few weeks, were passed on at the very beginning but were never synthesised and only recently have been digitised.
Mechanisms were over the last decades set up in countries such as Bosnia, Serbia, Colombia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Peru, El Salvador, Abkhazia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.
(Reporting by Kyriaki Christodoulou, CNA )