The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) managed to visit since last June seven of the thirty military sites for which it was granted permission in the northern, Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, in order to search for missing persons, with no excavations having commenced to date, according to a government memorandum that points out the obstacles put forward by the Turkish occupation forces.
“The Republic of Cyprus would like to have welcomed the development of June 2019, whereby the Turkish authorities granted permission to the CMP to access 30 additional sites in military areas in the occupied areas of Cyprus. However, it cannot do so because the unfortunate reality on the ground is that unhindered access continues to be withheld” says the memorandum of the Republic of Cyprus, submitted late November to the Committee of Minsters of the Council of Europe.
Nicosia notes that the procedures for gaining access to military sites remain “complicated and time consuming.”
It is added that excavation works conducted by the CMP in military areas to which access was eventually granted after pressure by the Committee of Ministers have been repeatedly interrupted by Turkish military forces, as was the case in Dikomo, a village in the Turkish-occupied Kyrenia District.
Nicosia also notes the close and undue monitoring of these areas by Turkish troops, which “constitutes a hindrance to the work of the CMP.” Also unduly hindered, without reasonable explanation, are visits and access of witnesses and CMP staff to such sites, the memorandum goes on.
“Even though the Turkish authorities have previously stated that witnesses and informants can visit known or suspected burial sites in military zones, provided that the military authorities are notified at least three working days in advance and are given the names, identification card numbers and car registration plates of the persons visiting, witnesses and CMP staff have repeatedly been denied access. Such instances include CMP staff and witnesses in the area of Deryneia and Stavros cemetery in the fenced-up area of Varosha” in Famagusta, the government of Cyprus says.
In instances where witnesses were allowed to access a military area, as was the case in Trahonas, they were not allowed freedom of movement, and as a result, lacked orientation to be able to provide exact information on the location of a burial site known to them, the memorandum concludes.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Since then, the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.
A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.
(Cyprus Newa Agency)