CMP was denied access to suspected burial site of missing persons in Lapithos, government memorandum says

Nicosia reiterates its call for unhindered access to military areas in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, in the search for missing persons, noting that the problems of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) relating to access to suspected or known burial sites, are not limited to these areas, but extend to civilian areas as well. Last January, access was denied to a suspected burial site in Turkish-occupied Lapithos, a town in the northern coast of Cyprus, according to a recent government memorandum to the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers is holding its quarterly meeting to oversee the execution of judgments and decisions from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, from March 8 to 10. The issue of missing persons will be among those to be reviewed, on the basis of a Court decision in the “Cyprus v. Turkey” interstate application, and in the cases “Varnava and Others v. Turkey” also concerning people who went missing in 1974. In a separate memorandum, the Turkish side invites the Committee of Ministers to discuss the closure of the two judgements.

On its part, Nicosia points to access problems for the CMP, saying that from December 2019 to March 2021, 7 sites were excavated in total from the 30 additional “suspected burial sites in military areas”, while from March 2021 until March 2022 an additional 7 sites have been excavated.

The problems relating to access to suspected or known burial site locations are not limited to military areas, the memorandum goes on. At the Committee’s March 2021 meeting, when the issue was last discussed “the Republic of Cyprus brought to the Committee’s attention four reported cases of denial to access to sites in Mia Milia, Exo Metochi, and Lapithos (2 caes)” it is noted.

“Most recently, in January 2022, access was denied and is still denied, to a suspected burial site in Lapithos” the government memorandum goes on, adding that “there has been no progress whatsoever on this issue, insofar as the setting up of mechanisms to allow unhindered access to civilian areas in the occupied areas is concerned.”

Nicosia asks the Committee of Ministers to issue a decision, calling on Turkey to pay the damages awarded by the Court in the relevant cases, together with interest and adopt an interim resolution for the damages awarded in the Court’s judgment in the case of “Varnava and Others v. Turkey.”

The Cyprus government also reiterates that the Committee should call upon Turkey to provide unhindered access to all military zones to search for missing persons, along with information from reports and military archives in its possession containing information on burial sites and places with relocated remains, and take measures to avert any future relocation of remains.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Since then, the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.

A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.

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