The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) has leads on two or three more possible burial sites of missing persons, member Leonidas Pantelides said on Wednesday.

Asked about the committee’s progress, Pantelides said the CMP has “relatively credible information” that, if accurate could lead to the discovery of more burial sites in 2023, and “really make a dent in the numbers”.

He told the Cyprus News Agency that in 2022, 63 excavations were carried out by the committee’s crews, as opposed to 79 in 2021 and 65 in 2020. The bones of 19 individuals were identified in 2022, 17 in 2021 and 10 in 2020.

He also underlined that the accuracy rate has improved significantly, explaining that bones were found in nine of the 63 digs, with an accuracy rate of 14.3 per cent. “In 2021, when we had four digs with bones, that rate was 5 per cent, and in 2020, with three digs, we had an accuracy rate of 4.6 per cent”.

This means that there is an improvement in the information that affects the degree of accuracy, he said. “The numbers have not increased significantly because we were finding a few people in each excavation.

“The largest number of people we found in a grave was four people in two or three cases. But we consciously do not neglect the cases where it can be one or two people and many times we make several attempts that involve one person. We have several such cases,” he added.

He stressed that alongside the accuracy rate, the number of people identified must also increase, and the way to do that is to locate large burial sites.

“As long as we can keep digging we are satisfied, because that means we are able to make discoveries, but we would like to find more people,” he said.

“We still have too many missing people, the families are waiting and no matter how intensively we work with the seven crews that we always have, we cannot consider that the rates at which we locate and return bones are satisfactory,” Pantelides said.

He added that the CMP has some credible leads that could lead to some large mass graves in 2023.

He also expressed the hope that, “in 2023 we will also have a significant improvement in the numbers that will reflect the greater accuracy we achieve in locating the sites because we will also attempt some of the big cases where we know are many people in one space, as a result of meditation for example”.

He said that at this time the crews are working in Kyrenia, Paphos, Gypsou, Karmi, Assia, Dikomo, Myrtou and Ayia Irini.

“We hope to excavate Strovolos in 2023 and we also have 10 military sites in the occupied areas as we do every year,” he said. “There are important military areas that we have requested to be excavated, but we still have no answer”.

Some of the issues the CMP faces, he said, are that over time “witnesses are lost, families are lost, the points of interest to us are altered due to residential activity, road construction activity, agricultural works,” or that generally the graves are not as they were in their original state, which means crews cannot find enough bones.

He pointed out that the more information crews have, the easier it will be for them to focus more specifically on the right spots. This can come “both from the past and more recent, but it always helps.

“So I always encourage people if they know something to tell us because combined with other things we know it can help us pinpoint the exact spot.”