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Media Watch 2012

29 May 2012
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Stefanos Evripidou
Turkey under pressure over missing persons
A book narrating the memoirs of high-ranking Turkish officers during the 1974 invasion has piled further pressure on Turkey to divulge information on the whereabouts and fate of missing Greek Cypriots.

A book narrating the memoirs of high-ranking Turkish officers during the 1974 invasion has piled further pressure on Turkey to divulge information on the whereabouts and fate of missing Greek Cypriots. 

The government has called on the Council of Europe (COE) to pressure Turkey for access to the Turkish army’s reports and archives containing information on the identity of Greek Cypriots killed in 1974, and the location of burial sites and persons taken alive by the Turkish army who are still missing today. 

The Cyprus Republic’s ambassador to the COE in Strasburg Theodora Constantinidou sent a memorandum to the COE’s Committee of Ministers highlighting the Turkish army’s refusal to share information that could help identify the whereabouts and fate of the missing.  

The memo was sent in response to a Turkish memorandum sent two days earlier to the Committee of Ministers maintaining that Turkey has taken all the necessary steps regarding the missing. 

In the memo sent last Friday by Cyprus, the need for effective implementation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgement on the missing is highlighted.

Attached to the memo is a note with extracts from a book written by Turkish author Erol Mutercimler containing eyewitness accounts from high-ranking Turkish army officers who took part in the 1974 Turkish invasion. 

The book, titled ‘Cyprus: The island on sale - Unknown Aspects of the Cyprus Peace Operation’ contains the memoirs of three high-ranking Turkish officers who served as commanders and deputy commanders during 1974. 

According to yesterday’s Politis, the officers’ memoirs provide numerous references to locations where Greek Cypriot soldiers and civilians were killed, found dead and buried, detained and never seen again, or buried and later had their remains removed by the Turkish army. 

One officer refers to 14 Greek Cypriots murdered in a house in Sysklipos on August 2, 1974 by a young artillery officer, two commandoes and two Turkish Cypriot militants. He narrates how his unit found the 14 dead men and women with bullet wounds to the chest and head on the couch and floor with one decapitated body found near the entrance.  

In Lefka, he narrates how 12 Greek Cypriot soldiers were arrested and held in a house while in Skylloura, 17 Greek Cypriot were detained while trying to leave the area. None have been seen since. 

The book documents other incidents, revealing the existence of information that would prove vital to the work of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP). One officer recounts that on July 20, two Greek Cypriots were killed by Turkish officers in a well, while in another incident, Turkish soldiers were ordered to bury dead Greek Cypriot soldiers and civilians in a mass grave. In the village of Elia, five Greek Cypriots were arrested during a search of the village. They have never been released.  

“Unless Turkey co-operates without further delay in order to effectively investigate and solve the cases of the missing by, inter alia, sharing information it has at its disposal and by allowing excavations and exhumations throughout the areas under its control, the fate of the missing will remain unknown and the (ECHR) judgment will remain unimplemented,” said the Cyprus memo.  

The Turkish authorities need to say what measures they will take and when they will take them to ensure “effective investigations” are carried out into the missing, argued the Cyprus ambassador.  

The COE should also demand information from Turkey on the location of the remains of Greek Cypriots secretly removed from mass burial sites in the occupied areas by the Turkish army. It could also invite the Turkish retired military officers mentioned in the book to share valuable information, argued the Cyprus government. 

The memo further notes the slow pace of investigations by the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) as a result of Turkey’s lack of co-operation with the CMP. 

“When one considers that currently no more than three identifications a month are concluded, it can be estimated that it will take many more decades before all the relatives might be informed of the fate of their loves ones,” said the memo. 

It highlights that all information to date on gravesite locations has come directly from ordinary Turkish Cypriots, and not from the official Turkish authorities or the Turkish military. 

The Committee of Ministers is responsible for monitoring the implementation of ECHR judgements. It is due to meet on June 4-6, though discussion on the two memos from Cyprus and Turkey could be postponed until September.