A conference on the missing persons, under the title “Human Rights: The Social and Political Implications of the Non-Application of their Principles on the Humanitarian Issue of Missing Persons”, was held on Friday, December 10, in Athens, on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.
The conference was co-organized by the Presidential Commissioner’s Office, the Panhellenic Committee of Parents and Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons of the Cyprus Tragedy, as well as the Pancyprian Organization of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons.
The conference was under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, addressed the Conference, congratulating the co-organizers for their committed work on the humanitarian issue of missing persons.
“The 47-year long unclear fate of our missing persons as a result of the Cyprus tragedy of 1974 is one of the most tragic, in human terms, aspects of our island`s history,” Anastasiades said in an address, read by Presidential Commissioner Fotis Fotiou. Describing the case of the missing persons as “a flagrant violation of human rights”, he said that it constitutes “a provocation to civilized humanity”.
The President of the Republic of Cyprus underlined that the problem concerns all the missing persons, Greek Cypriots, Greeks, and Turkish Cypriots.
Anastasiades assured that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus is making every possible effort to achieve progress on this issue, stressing however that the main obstacle remains Turkey’s refusal to cooperate. He called on Turkey to “comply with its legal and moral obligation under international law and cooperate for the effective examination of the fate of the missing persons.”
“The efforts of the Republic of Cyprus to determine the fate of the last missing person will continue, despite any difficulties and obstacles”, President Anastasiades assured.
On her part, President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, noted that the problem of the missing persons is “for hundreds of families an open wound”.
Sakellaropoulou suggested that Turkey bears “a heavy responsibility” for its continued “unwillingness to make a substantial contribution –apart from some moves aiming to create impressions– to the investigation of the fate of the missing persons”.
Finally, she assured that Greece and Cyprus will exhaust all possibilities and means, in cooperation with all stakeholders and by raising the issue internationally, so that “all relatives of the missing persons, without exception, get the answers to the tormenting questions regarding their beloved ones”.
Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides noted that the issue of missing persons is “an issue of systematic violation of basic human rights of the missing persons themselves and their families”.
Minister Christodoulides referred in detail to all the actions taken by the Republic of Cyprus on this issue and assured that the government will continue to make every effort to remove any obstacles. However, he underlined that the refusal of the Turkish side to cooperate hinders progress. The Foreign Minister recalled the four applications that Cyprus has filed against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Referring to the 2001 ECHR judgment, Christodoulides said that Turkey has a moral and legal responsibility to cooperate on the issue of the missing persons by providing information contained in its military archives, by giving access to burial sites located in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus and by supporting the Missing Persons` Committee in its work.
The President of the Cyprus House of Representatives, Annita Demetriou, described the issue of missing persons as a “terrible war crime”.
Referring to the tragedy experienced by the families of the missing persons, Demetriou stressed that the Cypriot side supports the efforts to determine the fate of the missing persons by assisting the work of the Committee since its establishment.
“However, Turkish intransigence and Ankara`s refusal to provide information, insisting on covering up the crime and disregarding the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and other international organizations, slows down the resolution of the issue, prolonging the suffering of the relatives,” she stressed.
“The effort to internationalize the issue must be a continuous one,” Demetriou said, assuring the relatives of the missing persons that they are not alone. “Your struggle is our struggle. We will be by your side, we will fight with you until our last missing person is found,” Demetriou concluded.
In his address to the Congress, US Senator Bob Menendez noted that “today and every day we all stand in solidarity with the families of the more than 2,000 missing persons.” Menendez stressed that these families who “live with the constant reminder of the loss of their loved ones” “deserve, after decades of uncertainty, a chance to mourn those who are lost.”
Menendez also noted that Turkey is obstructing the work of establishing the fate of the missing persons by denying access to Turkish military archives and data concerning them.
“We stand with the Republic of Cyprus and we commit to double our efforts in supporting the efforts of the families of the missing persons,” Menendez concluded.
Presidential Commissioner, Fotis Fotiou, during his address to the Conference, said that the humanitarian issue of the missing persons constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights.
Fotiou noted that measures and procedures should be adopted to effectively address the problem of missing persons on the basis of international law and the protection of human rights in practice.
“Turkey has a huge responsibility for the long-pending solution to the humanitarian problem in Cyprus. If one looks at the history of the issue, as it has been repeatedly exposed in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and the UN Human Rights Committee, as well as in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, one will find a great deal of evidence that clearly demonstrates the extent of Turkey`s responsibilities,” Fotiou said.
Welcoming the work of the Committee on Missing Persons, Fotiou underlined that the Republic of Cyprus will continue to support the investigation of every case, including the number of Turkish Cypriots whose names have been included in the relevant list.