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UN experts: Urgent solution of the missing persons issue essential both for relatives and future of Cyprus

NICOSIA/GENEVA (12 April 2022): “Faster progress is needed to fulfil the rights of relatives of the missing in Cyprus,” a delegation* of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said today at the end of an official visit at the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

“While recognizing the considerable achievements, notably due to the longstanding work of the bi-communal Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, the search progress has slowed down in recent years and significant challenges still remain,” they observed.

The experts called for urgent measures to accelerate the excavations, identification and return of the remains of the missing “as decades after the events of 1963/64 and 1974, too many relatives are passing away without knowing the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones,” noting that relevant information may be available but not fully utilised.

The Working Group emphasised in this respect that “it is essential to depoliticise the issue of missing persons in Cyprus and genuinely treat it as a human rights and humanitarian issue,” adding that more effective results can only be achieved through “an unconditional commitment among all concerned stakeholders to fully cooperate towards its solution and to give the rights of victims and their relatives top priority. Time is running out.”

“It is essential to put mistrust and resentment behind to finally put an end to the anguish and pain of all families. The initiatives and activities, notably those bicommunal, which are aimed at reconciliation and social cohesion should be fully supported,” they added.

The experts noted some recent discussions in Cyprus, especially within the civil society, on the establishment of a truth-telling mechanism, which could clarify the facts and circumstances of the disappearances.

“Virtually all stakeholders we have met have underlined the importance to establish the truth for the victims, the relatives and the society as a whole. The Working Group recommends all stakeholders to give due consideration to this idea, which could also be conducive to reconciliation.”

The experts also noted that “no progress has been made in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions for human rights violations resulting in individuals going missing, including possible enforced disappearances. While this is another essential pillar that needs to be addressed, together with truth, reparation and memory, there is very little emphasis in Cyprus on accountability.”

In relation to prevention of enforced disappearances, the Working Group expressed concern at information received on pushbacks both at sea and at the Green Line. While noting the challenges posed by an increased number of arrivals on the island, they recalled that “international law clearly prohibits the return of any person where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of enforced disappearance.”

The experts further called for the creation of an adequate legal framework as a measure of prevention of enforced disappearances.

“Some of these measures can be taken swiftly, including the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the introduction of an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance in the penal code.”

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