More mass graves to be found in 2023

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Next year it would be possible to locate large burial sites of missing persons after receiving relatively good information on several cases, said Greek Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Leonidas Pantelides.

“We are constantly doing a little better, and I hope that in 2023 we will be more effective in identifying more people,” Pantelides told CNA.

In 2022, 63 excavations were carried out by CMP crews compared to 79 in 2021 and 65 in 2020.

He said they have located the remains of 19 persons, compared to 17 in 2021 and 10 in 2020 and underlined that the accuracy rate had improved significantly.

They found remains in 9 of the 63 excavations, with an accuracy rate of 14.3%. In 2021 that rate was 5%, and in 2020 it was 4.6 %.

An improvement in the information received affects the degree of accuracy.

Pantelides noted that they would like to locate more remains since there are still too many missing people, and their families are waiting.

“No matter how intensively we work with seven crews, the rate at which we locate and return the remains to the families is not satisfactory.

“In 2023, we hope to locate some large graves because we have relatively good information on 2-3 cases, maybe more”.

“We hope in 2023 we will also have a significant improvement in the numbers, reflecting the greater accuracy we achieve in locating the sites because we will also attempt some of the big cases that we know are many people in one site’.

Currently, teams are working in Kyrenia, Paphos, Gypsu, Karmi, Assia, Dikomo, Myrtou and Agia Erini.

“We hope to proceed with excavations in Strovolos in 2023, and we also have ten military sites in the occupied areas as we do every year.

“There are important military areas that we have requested to be excavated, but we still have no answer”.

He said that witnesses and families are gone over time, and the sites of interest are altered due to residential activity, road constructions, agricultural works and other reasons.

Another problem is that they often find only a few remains because the graves are not as they were in their original state.

Pantelides said there is cooperation with the Red Cross, which often sends scientists and other officials from different countries to Cyprus to see how the CMP program works.

A Committee on Missing Persons was established on the agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying, and returning to their relatives the remains of 492 Turkish Cypriots and 1,510 Greek Cypriots who went missing during the inter-communal fighting of 1963-1964 and in 1974.

From 2002 missing persons, 1,185 were exhumed, and 1,027 were identified.

Out of 1510 Greek Cypriot missing, 735 were identified; the fate of 775 is still unknown.

Of the 492 Turkish Cypriot missing, 292 were identified, while 200 are still missing.