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Media Watch 2005

07 January 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 7 January 2005.
Digging begins in north to locate missing
"Experts with the UK-based International Forensic Centre of Excellence for the Investigation of Genocide (INFORCE) began digging in Turkish-held Nicosia suburb of Trachonas on Wednesday to confirm that missing Greek Cypriots are indeed buried there... Turkey has yet to comply with a May, 2001 European Court of Human Rights ruling order to investigate some 1,479 cases of Greek Cypriots who disappeared after last seen alive in Turkish custody."

Officials welcomed the start of digging in the occupied north to locate graves believed to contain the remains of missing persons, but warned unwanted publicity could hamper the process.

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the humanitarian issue remains a top priority for President Tassos Papadopoulos.

"I hope the issue will move forward in spite of the occupation regime’s delaying tactics," Chrysostomides told reporters yesterday.

Elias Georgiades, the Greek Cypriot member of the tripartite Committee of Missing Persons (CMP) hailed the start of digging was a "small step in the right direction".

But he pleaded with officials and the media to refrain from statements or reports that would throw a spanner in the politically sensitive process.

No exhumations
Experts with the UK-based International Forensic Centre of Excellence for the Investigation of Genocide (INFORCE) began digging in Turkish-held Nicosia suburb of Trachonas on Wednesday to confirm that missing Greek Cypriots are indeed buried there.

Trachonas was one of three locations that Turkish Cypriot authorities identified in 1998 as possible burial sites.

Greek Cypriot officials identified 18 graves in the government-controlled areas that are believed to contain the remains of Turkish Cypriots. Another four are in the north.

Turkish Cypriot CMP member Rustem Tatar said the exploratory work won’t include actual exhumations of remains. He said if a grave is found, the CMP would meet to decide on the next steps.

Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ Mehmet Ali Talat said yesterday that the experts had found nothing in their first day of work.

The CMP had tapped Non-profit INFORCE to spearhead exhumations of mass graves on both sides of the divide.

There are 1,586 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots officially listed as having gone missing from the outbreak of intercommunal violence in the early 1960s to and including the invasion.

Meanwhile, Georgiades said that there has been no progress in investigations to determine the fate of missing Greek Cypriots last seen alive in the hands of Turkish soldiers during the 1974 invasion.

"Unfortunately, there is still nothing which might come close to what the relatives of the missing are expecting," said Georgiades.

Turkey’s obligations
Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons President Nicos Theodosiou said his groups wants Turkey to live up to its obligations and investigate the last known whereabouts of missing persons.

He said Turkey has yet to comply with a May, 2001 European Court of Human Rights ruling order to investigate some 1,479 cases of Greek Cypriots who disappeared after last seen alive in Turkish custody.

Ankara has insisted that investigations should be carried out by the CMP, but Nicosia said the Committee’s limited scope renders it ill-equipped to do so.

Theodosiou said that a delegation from his group will visit Strasbourg at the end of this month for contacts with Council of Europe officials to turn up the pressure for a swift resolution of the humanitarian issue."