Missing persons’ panel in Cyprus finds 1,061 bodies

Missing persons’ panel in Cyprus finds 1,061 bodies

NICOSIA – Anadolu Agency
Missing persons’ panel in Cyprus finds 1,061 bodies

AFP photo

Some 1,061 missing people have been unearthed in the past 10 years in Cyprus, while around 700 of the bodies have been identified and handed over to their families, according to a Turkish Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus. 

Gülden Plümer Küçük, the Turkish Cypriot member of the CMP in Cyprus, said the bodies of a total of 1,061 missing people had been found since 2006 when the CMP in Cyprus began operations.

“Of these 1,061 bodies, around 700 have been identified and handed over to their families,” said Küçük. 

Cyprus was divided into Turkish and Greek Cyprus in 1974 when Turkey intervened on the island in response to a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

Küçük said that between 100 and 120 excavations had been conducted every year since 2006 but that the success rate was relatively low, resting at around 25 percent. 

“When a witness says, ‘Someone is buried on this land,’ we dig in three or four places on that piece of land. Therefore the success rate of the excavations are between 20 and 25 percent,” said Küçük, adding that it was not easy to find the exact spot of the buried bodies. 

CMP was established to enable relatives of missing persons to recover the remains of their loved ones, arrange for a proper burial and close a long period of anguish and uncertainty. 

Küçük said two big land excavations had taken place in 2015 from which 125 bodies had been found. 

Stating that one of these excavations was conducted in an area which is controlled by the military near a prison in Nicosia, Küçük said the remains of 36 Greek Cypriot soldiers had been found. 

Another large excavation was conducted in 2015 in the Muratağa and Sandallar villages located in the northeast of the island, now located in Turkish Cyprus, said Küçük, adding that the bodies of 89 Turkish Cypriots had been found in the area dug. 

So far 50 of the 89 bodies have been removed from the ground, she said.

“As no scientific identification was conducted at the mass graves of the people who were killed at the Muratağa, Atlılar and Sandallar villages, they were all buried together in [mass] graves,” said Küçük. “It is very important for the families of these people to be identified and for them to have their separate graves.” 

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Anastasiades, re-launched peace talks last May in an effort to end the more than 40-year-old dispute. The talks are being conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.