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Media Watch 2003

29 August 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment:
UN report on missing almost ready


A report possibly bringing to light previously unknown information on missing persons that had been sealed in the archives of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for decades should be ready in the next few weeks, UN officials said.

“We’re working very hard on the report and we hope to hand it to the Greek and Turkish Cypriot members of the Committee for Missing Persons in a matter of weeks,” Pierre Guberan, told The Cyprus Weekly. 

Guberan, the Swiss member of the tripartite Committee, was tasked with drafting the report after a two-year-old government request for UNFICYP to hand over any information on missing persons seen either alive or dead during the 1974 Turkish invasion.

The request was prompted by a December, 2001 Cyprus Weekly report in which a high-ranking officer serving with the Swedish peacekeeping contingent posted on the island in 1974 confirmed for the first time that UNFICYP archives do contain reports on missing persons.

Recounting from copies of official UN documents he kept in his personal archive, the officer - who requested anonymity - said UN civilian police (UNCIVPOL) personnel located the bodies of dead Greek Cypriot civilians in the Famagusta village of Stylloi.

He also revealed that a detailed report of the discovery had been filed with UN headquarters in Nicosia, carrying a specific reference number and date which The Cyprus Weekly has a record of.

Despite persistent UNFICYP denials, relatives of missing persons, as well as government officials, have long suspected that the Force has been holding back information on individuals who disappeared in the summer of 1974, but had no way of proving it.

Meanwhile, widespread media scrutiny of the UN’s alleged withholding of information continued unabated since a Swedish ex-UN peacekeeper issued a personal appeal to Rauf Denktash earlier this month to account for the fate for some 15-17 Greek Cypriots who disappeared in Eftakomi in August, 1974.

Open letter
Karl Lind, 56, had urged Denktash in an open letter carried exclusively by The Cyprus Weekly to investigate what happened to the truck-load of civilians he saw while on guard duty in Eftakomi being driven to their possible execution spot somewhere inside the village.

Lind, whose revelation was the first ever on-the-record retelling by a former UN soldier of a possible Turkish war-time atrocity, recounted his story to the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation earlier in the week, sparking strong reaction among relatives of the missing.

“It’s one thing to read Mr. Lind’s story from the pages of a newspaper, and quite another to hear his voice telling it,” said Relatives of the Missing Association President Nicos Theodosiou.

Blasting UNFICYP’s alleged withholding of information as “criminal”, Theodosiou repeated that the government should rely less on the Force and put its trust in other former peacekeepers who may want to speak out about their tour of duty in Cyprus.

He said the onus is on government authorities to track down ex-soldiers willing to speak in order to create an independent data base from which existing eyewitness accounts can be cross-checked.

New initiative
Theodosiou said his association is assisting in an initiative by Larnaca Bishop Chrysostomos to print leaflets that will be distributed among Turkish Cypriots offering up to Q100,000 for information on missing persons who may still be alive.

Asked to comment on Lind’s account, House Speaker Demetris Christofias said the international community hasn’t shown the level of interest on the issue that it should have.

Illustrating his point, Christofias pointed to how American interest in resolving the issue turned lukewarm after the remains of five US citizens who disappeared during the invasion were located and identified. 

Although skirting questions concerning the details of the Swede’s story, Christofias said it’s up to officials to investigate the account.

“An investigation should be launched to determine if any people still still alive and to discover the remains of the dead so they can be properly buried with the honours they deserve,” said Christofias.

The House Speaker said the missing persons issue shouldn’t be foisted entirely on the UN because it’s a “wider problem”."