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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 09-02-21

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    Christophe Girod, third member of the Committee on Missing Persons, has paid tribute to the Cypriots from both communities on the island working in the process of exhuming, identifying and returning remains of missing persons in Cyprus.

    In an interview with CNA, Girod highlighted the difficulties, practical and emotional, the CMP meets, the sensitivities that have to be taken into consideration in dealing with this humanitarian aspect of the Cyprus question, and stressed that the CMP mandate is to determine the fate of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons.

    The man who has helped expose to the world the horrors of Guantanamo prison, in Cuba, indicated that, regrettably, the remains of some of the missing might not be located, something which could lead the CMP to decide on the fate of missing persons on the basis of witnesses evidence, without actually proof. In this respect, he cited the conclusions of a 2006 CMP survey in which 63% of Greek Cypriots and 89% of Turkish Cypriots said they believed that all missing persons are dead.

    Girod revealed that the Turkish army has given permission to dig in military areas and said the Committee cannot act in the direction of Turkey as far as implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgments is concerned, as this does not fall within its mandate.

    He talked about a snowball effect in efforts to persuade witnesses to come forward and give information to the Committee, saying that the absence of legal proceedings in this context is a helpful incentive for those who do give evidence.

    Since the latest effort to exhume and identify remains has begun, 104 remains of Greek Cypriot missing and 31 of Turkish Cypriots have been identified and returned to the next of kin for proper burial. The relatives, he pointed out, want the process to accelerate and yield results as quickly as possible.

    The future of the CMP, he noted, would depend on the wishes and decisions of the two communities.

    On the financial situation of the CMP, Girod talked about a 2,4 million euro annual budget, noting that the Committee, in spite of generous donations, is always looking for ways to boost its resources and expects the European Commission to hand over 2 m. euro, it has earmarked for the CMP.

    Asked where the process stands at present, he said after 2.5 years of operation 486 set of remains have been exhumed, as of this past weekend, 135 sets of remains identified, 104 Greek Cypriots and 31 Turkish Cypriots. He said 246 burial sites have been dug up but not all prospective gravesites yield result, either because witnesses do not recognize the place or their recollection of the area is not precise or there has been construction in the area.

    Invited to identify the most important problem in the process, he referred to the start of the process when witnesses come forward, give evidence in full knowledge that there will be no legal repercussions and to the end of the process when families are notified about the findings of the scientific examination.

    Families have been waiting for answers since 1964 and 1974, and since we started exhuming expectations have risen dramatically and understandably so. Two and a half years into the process, you can read this with two different eyes. Scientifically you can say around 500 have been exhumed and 135 identified and that is good or you can read this with the families` eyes and say that`s nothing, speed up please, he explained.

    Replying to other questions, he said both his Cypriot colleagues have investigators working for them, trying to persuade witnesses to give evidence and to find information themselves.

    There has been a snowball effect, when no legal consequences were attached to witnesses who gave evidence, and this has encouraged others to come forward, he said.

    Asked if the CMP can press on with Ankara the need for effective investigation, as called for by the European Court of Human Rights, Girod stressed this is not part of the CMP mandate, which is to determine the fate of the missing persons, whether dead or alive, we are not looking into the circumstances of the death and we are not attributing responsibilities because these are outside our mandate.

    He went on to explain that two kinds of investigation exist, the CMP mandated investigation to determine the fate of the missing persons and the effective investigation as defined by the ECHR but, as he pointed out, this is up to the European institutions to implement whatever decisions they take.

    This however, he went on to add, does not mean the Committee is not investigating, in fact investigation has temporarily become mapping out grave sites and finding as many remains as possible, that is the first phase of investigating.

    Following this, the process will reach another stage when the CMP runs out of remains. There will be a stage when exhumation will end and unfortunately we will not exhume everybody, or if we do, I wish we do, but realistically we have to be prepared that this will not be the case and then we will need to continue to investigate, to assess the fate by listening to the same witnesses, if you want, stopping short of having a grave and making a decision about the fate of the missing on what we will be hearing without having a grave, without proof.

    This, however, will be more complicated and more difficult, both politically and psychologically for the families, he acknowledged.

    Asked if he was referring to the term presumed dead, Girod pointed out that one should be careful with words and very careful with such things. He explained that the Turkish Cypriots had declared all their missing dead, the Greek Cypriots have not. Nonetheless, all the families want the bodies of their missing relatives.

    So presumed dead is not for me to say, this is too hot an issue, he added.

    Describing the emotional aspect of this tragic issue of missing persons, Girod said families, on seeing the remains of their loved ones, often realize that what they gaze at does not correspond to the picture they had.

    They have to accept and believe that these bones is in fact their loved one, he said, noting that for some families it is easier than others, some ask one thousand questions about the circumstances of their death. But this is where science has its limits because after 35 years bones are speaking but are not telling everything. Even if our mandate was to say how somebody died, which is not, it is difficult to do just that and has its limits.

    Replying to other questions, he praised the attitude of the leaders of the two communities, both current ones and former ones who served in 2006, saying they kept their word and have not politicized this issue, which shows their commitment to this project.

    On the forensic work, he had nothing but praise for the Cypriots scientists, who having been trained by their Argentinean counterparts, they are now doing the job on their own and doing it well. At present, there are almost 40 Cypriot scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists and geneticists working on the project.

    The work carried out at present should continue for a while, but one cannot really tell how long this will last, as it depends on many factors.

    Replying to other questions, Girod welcomed the current debate on whether a truth commission should be established, but pointed out that such a decision can only be taken by the Cypriots themselves.

    Concluding, he said his experience in similar situations in the Gulf or the former Yugoslavia has been useful in that one learns how to maneuvers between opposing parties and facilitate the job that needs to be done.


    Polling stations for conducting the European Elections 2009 are expected to be set up in Greece, Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia, Australia, the USA, Arab countries and in other countries around the world where there are at least 50 voters, Chief of Elections at the Ministry of Interior, Demetris Demetriou has said.

    In an interview with CNA, Demetriou said that according to the number of voters who came to Cyprus from abroad for last years presidential elections, they are estimated to be about 25,000 to 30,000 voters.

    Students in Greece are approximately 13,331, in Britain 6,924, the USA 519, Bulgaria 398 and Hungary 303.

    There is also a large number of Cypriots working in Brussels.

    In some countries, he said, permits will be necessary to operate polling stations while in countries such as Greece and the UK, other sites apart from the embassies will be required to operate polling stations. We hope this will be possible, so as to serve more people and limiting the distance they need to travel to the polling stations, Demetriou said.

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