The former Greek Cypriot representative on the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) has dropped bombshell allegations just as the government prepares to register the issue with the European parliament.
Nestoras Nestoros, the former CMP representative and an outspoken critic of Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou, has gone public with information regarding the handling of missing person cases. Nestoros alleged earlier this week before a House committee that Photiou had blocked access to data and boxes stored at the anthropological lab in Nicosia.
According to Nestoros, search efforts on a number of missing persons have not been taking into consideration a number of tip-offs given by war veterans, who recounted stories of battles and knew the identities of some of the fallen including where and whose bodies had been picked up.
The former CMP rep also says that lots of data on height, age, and other characteristics, all of which is being held at the lab, could be linked to missing persons whose burial locations are still being sought.
Nestoros says that some 50 boxes with human remains are still unidentified and could belong to missing persons currently thought to be buried in the north
“It would be helpful to have this information so that we can draw conclusions as to the identity of someone who is about to be exhumed,” Nestoros said.
Photiou, who responded to the allegations, says that his office, both he personally as well as administrators, are in constant communication with the CMP rep’s office to give access to any information, while noting some of the difficulties in identifying human remains.
He also said that certain information was never shared officially, citing what he described as the legal department’s advice regarding privacy laws, adding that investigators who worked for Nestoros had spent hours poring over the archives at the lab.
But Nestoros cited two cases as examples of why direct access to all the data ought to be essential. He spoke about two families whose loved ones went missing in specific known locations. In both cases, the families were reluctant or flat out refused to accept the remains for burial, saying the discovery locations did not make sense and did not match with what was known to have actually happened. One of the families, after years of refusing to bury the remains until they finally held a service almost a decade later, had to exhume the remains yet again and give them back, with both families later being given the correct human remains for proper burials.
FM prepares to take issue overseas
Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, who also appeared before the House committee, said more coordinating efforts are taking place with Greece in order to bring international attention to the issue.
“We have agreed with the Greek ministers of foreign affairs and defence to have a joint meeting in Greece, also joined by relatives of missing persons, to discuss the issue of brining more international attention to the issue but also some exchange of information that could flow to either direction,” Christodoulides said.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, the foreign minister says the government is prepared to push for a sponsor bill on the Missing in the European Parliament.
But Nestoros, whose contract was left to expire without renewal this spring, has said previously he had sought a private audience with President Nicos Anastasiades and the foreign minister regarding a number of actions that needed to be taken locally before addressing the issue overseas.
Former CMP rep says Greek Cypriots could do more
The former CMP representative recently said Turkey was to blame for the drop in the number of discoveries of human remains in recent years but also “the Greek Cypriot side could have done more.”
Nestoros, who says he had detailed his views in a letter to Photiou in 2018, told daily Phileleftheros that some 50 boxes with human remains are still unidentified and could belong to missing persons thought to be buried in the north.
The former CMP rep stepped down after his contract expired in April. He was followed by interim CMP member Nicos Theodosiou who was replaced in late April by former ambassador Leonidas Pantelides.