The investigative Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) will need at least a decade to complete its task of identifying and returning missing loved ones to their relatives at the present rate without additional funding.
The committee’s independent member Paul Henri-Arni told a news conference yesterday that if the CMP was to receive extra funds over the €2.7 million it receives annually, it could speed up results by a third or more.
“With the current rate of identifications, that is to say 130 a year, it will take us at least ten years to complete the task of identification and return of the missing to their families,” Arni said.
“Families of missing cannot wait that long and it is unacceptable for relatives to pass away without finding the remains of their loved ones,” he added.
Stressing the CMP’s task is significantly limited by insufficient funding, Arni noted there are 271 burrial sites on the CMP exhumations list, nine of which are believed to have 20 remains each.
Around 200 remains are stored in the committee’s laboratory and are waiting identification.
Arni said that around €30,000 is needed for exhumations every month while the identification process through the DNA method in the Sarajevo lab costs €1,500 per person.
It is estimated that extra €1 million is required for 40 additional identifications every year.
Arni said that 31 of the 271 burrial sites are designated as military zones by Turkey and there is no access to them.
Since 2008, CPA has had access to 23 areas with the latest access allowed two weeks ago and exhumations there (near the new prisons in the industrial zone occupied Nicosia) will begin in January.
He said CMP will continue its cooperation with current donors and will approach new ones like countries of the Arabian Gulf while an appeal has already been made to members of the Council of Europe (CoE) to help with the committee’s task.
The CMP recently visited the CoE and conveyed information on developments on its task.
It had significant contacts with the Turkish Ambassador, Cyprus’ ambassador, the Council’s director general and the Commissioner for human rights issues of the CoE whom they invited to Cyprus for a major event for the relatives of the missing on April 12.
The CMP has so far received contributions in memory of former President Glafcos Clerides that amount to €77,000.
The Committee’s Greek Cypriot representative Theophilos Theophilou said the CMP’s task is a struggle against time with the urgent need to solve the problem is becoming more pressing and imperative each day.
“CMP has a priority to proceed with the exhumation of as many remains as possible while witnesses are still alive,” Theophilou said.
Turkish Cypriot representative Gulden Plumer Kucuk said that CMP identified 131 missing persons in 2013, of whom 88 were Greek Cypriot and 43 Turkish Cypriot.
It is a record year of results with the number of identifications doubling compared to the average number of the previous years.
The number of missing persons that have been identified since 2007 is 469 from a total of 2,001.
Cypriots who have information about burial sites can call 22400142 or 97653019 and their information will be treated in strict confidence.