CMP: Relocation of bones involves risks in identification of remains

CMP: Relocation of bones involves risks in identification of remains

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) has “identified the right person”, in the case of the missing Greek Cypriot Georgios Foris, the three members of the CMP have said on Wednesday, announcing at the same time that an independent expert has been requested from the Red Cross to probe this specific case.

Foris, from the village of Assia, has been missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion. His remains were exhumed from a well in Assia, along with the remains of 38 individuals.

Recently, the family of Foris contested the identification process, noting that some of the remains returned to the family did not belong to the deceased. To this end, the family has sought a DNA retesting of the remains, by the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics.

“In this case, as in the 567 other cases of missing persons identified by the CMP, we can certify that the right person was identified,” said Paul-Henri Arni, the third member of the CMP, in the presence of Nestoras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot member and Gülden Plümer Kücük, the Turkish Cypriot member.

During a press conference, at the Anthropological Laboratory, in the UN-protected area of the now defunct Nicosia Airport, Arni said that the question in this case is whether CMP anthropologists, outside of the DNA process, correctly associated a number of very small bones to the individual in question.

He added that in order to asses this, the results of CING were necessary and asked the family to authorise CING to send a copy to CMP. “Only by comparing their and our scientific results will we be able to determine what happened,” he added.

In this regard, a letter was sent to the family yesterday, noting however that its delivery was delayed for today.

Nestroras Nestoros, the Greek Cypriot member of CMP, said from his part that in cases of mass graves, where bones have been relocated at a later stage, leaving only a fraction of the original remains to scientists to determine to whom they belong, CMP is considering to start giving back to the families only the remains that have been analyzed for DNA.

The practice today is to let anthropologists associate smaller skeletal elements, in order “to give more bones back to the families” as the CMP members said, noting however the risk at stake.

Arni explained that smaller bones “were associated based on anthropological analysis”, since “testing all bones for DNA would exceed the CMP’s financial means”.

The CMP members also announced that they asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide the Committee with a leading independent expert, who will participate in the review of the Foris case and formulate independent conclusions that will be made public.

Moreover, the expert will also draft suggestions to strengthen the CMP’s processes, if necessary.

Nestoros said the expert was expected in Cyprus “the soonest possible” to analyse the case in question and CMP procedures “so as to leave no stains behind”.

Arni said moreover that there is no other contested case before CMP, while noting that it is not acceptable for CMP to give to a family the bones that belong to other missing persons.

The Turkish Cypriot member Gülden Plümer Kücük noted that the CMP is aware of the sensitivities of the families with missing persons, and added that the Committee is trying to provide them with all the answers, along with the remains of their beloved ones.

She further said that there are a lot of cases of mass graves with “commingled bones”, and explained the difficulty of scientists to determine to whom they belong.

Asked about the relocation of remains in Cyprus, Arni said he had “no idea” who did it, but said that this “happened everywhere”. “It happened also in the south” said Arni, referring to the free areas of the Republic of Cyprus, while noting that “it is not a specialty of the north”, that is the areas under Turkish occupation.

According to Kücük, overall the CMP has exhumed almost 1.000 persons, with the remains of 400 awaiting identification. Another 1.000 are still to be found, she added.

New remains found
In his statements, Nestoros confirmed that three skulls and several bones were discovered at the old military camp of the Hellenic Force in Cyprus, now in occupied Nicosia.

The remains were discovered last January, during works at the water supply system.

Nestoros said that an exhumation team is working on spot, trying to recover more bones.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Since then, the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.

A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.