Faster progress is needed to fulfil the rights of relatives of the missing in Cyprus, a delegation of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said Tuesday at the end of an official visit.
“While recognising the considerable achievements, notably due to the longstanding work of the bi-communal Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, the search progress has slowed down in recent years, and significant challenges still remain,” they observed.
The experts called for urgent measures to accelerate the excavations, identification and return of the remains of the missing “as decades after the events of 1963/64 and 1974, too many relatives are passing away without knowing the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.”
UN experts said that relevant information may be available but not fully utilised.
The Working Group said: “It is essential to depoliticise the issue of missing persons in Cyprus and genuinely treat it as a human rights and humanitarian issue.”
Adding that more effective results can only be achieved through “an unconditional commitment among all concerned stakeholders to cooperate towards its solution fully and give the rights of victims and their relatives top priority. Time is running out.”
“It is essential to put mistrust and resentment behind to finally put an end to the anguish and pain of all families.
“The initiatives and activities, notably those bicommunal, aimed at reconciliation and social cohesion should be fully supported.”
The experts noted some recent discussions in Cyprus, especially within the civil society, on establishing a truth-telling mechanism that could clarify the facts and circumstances of the disappearances.
“Virtually all stakeholders we have met have underlined the importance of establishing the truth for the victims, the relatives, and society.
“The Working Group recommends all stakeholders to give due consideration to this idea, which could also be conducive to reconciliation.”
The experts also noted that “no progress has been made in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions for human rights violations resulting in individuals going missing, including possible enforced disappearances.
“While this is another essential pillar that needs to be addressed, together with truth, reparation and memory, there is very little emphasis in Cyprus on accountability.”
Concerning preventing enforced disappearances, the Working Group expressed concern at information received on pushbacks at sea and the Green Line.
While noting the challenges posed by an increased number of arrivals on the island, they recalled that “international law clearly prohibits the return of any person where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of enforced disappearance.”