Cyprus

By unknown British Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By unknown British Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) was established in 1981 by an agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities with the backing of the United Nations (UN), to determine the fate of persons reported missing in inter-communal fighting in the 1960s, and as a result of the events of 1974. A total of 493 Turkish Cypriots and 1,508 Greek Cypriots were officially reported as missing by both communities to the CMP.

The Committee consists of three members, one appointed from the Greek Cypriot community, one from the Turkish Cypriot community and a third member selected by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The agreement stipulates that the Committee must have access throughout the island to carry out its work.

CMP does not attempt to investigate, or attribute responsibility for the deaths of missing persons or make findings as to the cause of such deaths. Its mandate is a humanitarian one of “bringing closure to thousands of affected families through the return of the remains of their missing relatives.”

The Committee has created a comprehensive, agreed list of missing persons, and works to recover and identify the missing and return mortal remains to the relatives of the missing.

In July 2012 ICMP began providing assistance in making DNA-based identifications.   ICMP’s role in this assistance has included isolating DNA from post-mortem samples received from the CMP and matching DNA profiles obtained from these post-mortem samples against DNA profiles from anonymized family reference samples. In addition, ICMP has provided guidance on problematic cases, and assistance in matching profiles from a historical database of samples produced prior to ICMP’s involvement.

To date, ICMP has generated DNA profiles from 1,381 bone samples submitted for testing. A total of 1,194 DNA match and re-association reports, representing 292 missing persons, have been submitted to the CMP.

International legal instruments

The Republic of Cyprus is a state party to major international human rights instruments including ICCPR, CESCR, CAT. It signed the Convention in 2007 but has not yet ratified it. It is also a state party to ECHR. It became a party to the Rome Statute in 2002. The Republic of Cyprus became a signatory party to the Agreement on the Status and Functions of the International Commission on Missing Persons in 2015.

Constitutional framework

The Cyprus Constitution from 1960 guarantees the protection of the right to life, and the right to liberty and security of the person, as well as the right to respect for private and family life. It also provides that no person will be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment as well as equality before the law. However, as a result of inter-communal strife the Republic of Cyprus applied a legal doctrine of necessity, which posits implied exceptions to particular provisions of the Constitution and which can extend to fundamental rights guarantees. The relatively more limited MDP process described below may be viewed in this context.

Lex specialis

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) was established in 1981 by agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities under the auspices of the United Nations. CMP continues to coordinate efforts to locate and identify the missing. Its purpose is to recover, identify, and return to their families, the remains of 2001 persons (493 Turkish Cypriots and 1,508 Greek Cypriots) who went missing during the inter-communal fighting of 1963 to 1964 and the events of 1974.

The CMP consists of a representative of the Greek Cypriot community, a representative of the Turkish Cypriot community, and a Third Member selected by the International Committee of the Red Cross and appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The agreement stipulates that the Committee must have access throughout the island to carry out its work.

The CMP has undertaken archaeological work related to the exhumation of the remains of missing persons, as well as anthropological examinations of the remains of the missing, and adopted a DNA-led approach to identify the missing in 2012 under an agreement with ICMP. The CMP has made significant progress in recent years in locating and identifying the missing. However, as it was established under a humanitarian mandate that does not permit examining the cause or manner of death of victims, the CMP’s work has been regarded by the ECtHR as falling short of standards for an effective investigation required under Art. 2 of the ECHR, right to life, in the case of Cyprus v. Turkey.

Other regulations and measures

In the Grand Chamber Judgement of 2014 on the question of just satisfaction in the case of Cyprus v. Turkey, the court awarded the aggregate sum of EUR 30,000,000 for non-pecuniary damage suffered by surviving relatives of missing persons. The judgement followed the principal judgment of 2001 in which numerous violations of the ECHR by Turkey concerning missing persons were found in relation to military operations it had conducted in northern Cyprus in 1974. The awarded sum should be distributed by the Cypriot Government to individual victims of violations found in the principal judgment. The Cypriot Government is supposed to set up an effective mechanism to distribute the awarded damages to individual victims.

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