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Media Watch 2004

17 February 2004
Source: Cyprus Mail
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 17 February 2004 written by a staff reporter.
Relatives bring bodies back from the north for identification

RELATIVES OF persons missing since the 1974 invasion have brought back remains from the north, the local press reported yesterday.

According to a story that appeared in yesterday’s Tharros, since last April -- when restrictions on freedom of movement were lifted -- relatives have been carrying out their own inquiries in the north, even digging up sites where they had been told mass graves existed.

On returning to the south, they handed over the remains they dug up to the Institute of Genetics and Neurology for DNA verification. According to reports, scientists identified seven sets of remains as human tissue; but obtaining a DNA match will prove extremely difficult and time-consuming, because the remains have been exposed to the elements for many years.
The delivery of the remains to the Institute could not be independently corroborated yesterday.

According to the paper’s story, relatives of the missing went around asking Turkish Cypriots living in areas where there were reports of mass graves created in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion. Some of them were led to fields that had been left unattended since the war, even finding abandoned military ordnance, a stark reminder of the fighting in the summer of 1974.

The initial 1,619 figure for the missing has now been reduced to 1,490, after a number of exhumed remains were identified, while other persons were eventually confirmed to have died during the fighting.

Most of the missing were soldiers or reservists, captured during the fighting, while the rest were civilians arrested by the Turkish invasion troops or Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary elements.

About 500 Turkish Cypriots are also listed as missing. The Foreign Ministry in the south has set up a blood bank for Turkish Cypriots wishing to obtain a DNA match to remains of exhumed bodies. Reports say that already a number of Turkish Cypriots have contacted government departments for information on their relatives.

Some of the Turkish Cypriots listed as missing date back to the 1960 inter-communal troubles.

Quarters from both communities have levelled criticism at the way the missing persons issue has been exploited by both sides for propaganda purposes while perpetuating the grief of relatives.

In 1997 President Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash signed an agreement providing for the exhumation of remains in both the south and the north.

In 2002 authorities began exhumations of a common grave in the Larnaca district, which had seen fighting in 1974, but abandoned the effort after the Denktash regime’s refusal to supply DNA samples of relatives."