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30 September, 2020
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Missing person’s funeral on hold pending legal debate

Coroner refuses to issue death certificate saying a tooth is not conclusive physical evidence


A recent case involving partial remains of one of Cyprus missing persons is keeping a family from burying their loved one, as the coroner cannot positively confirm their relative’s death to issue a certificate.

According to daily Phileleftheros, a family had been requesting a death certificate for their loved one in order to bury him, but the funeral cannot go forward because the state coroner says there is not enough scientific evidence to declare the man is dead.

The human fragment associated with the missing person is a tooth, according to reports, which was linked to the man’s identity through DNA tests.

There is another way state authorities could issue a death certificate, such as a formal inquest that can be ordered by the attorney general

But the state coroner says a tooth is not sufficient evidence to issue a death certificate for any person.

Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Issues Photis Photiou reportedly met with the family, explaining to them that “anyone could lose a tooth” without meeting an untimely demise.

But Photiou took the issue to the attorney general, asking for a legal opinion pending the family’s request to go ahead with the funeral.

“The relatives came to see me and expressed their wish to hold the funeral,” Photiou said.

“But there is a problem here,” the commissioner added, saying that the attorney general cited current laws that justify the coroner’s refusal to issue a death certificate.

According to Cyprus law, a coroner is not required to issue a death certificate if a certain single part of human remains, such as a tooth, is the only evidence, unlike a skull that could more definitively point to someone’s death.

One other option

There is another way state authorities could issue a death certificate, such as a formal inquest that can be ordered by the attorney general.

An inquest would take an undetermined amount of time, according to Phileleftheros, with authorities trying to evaluate the kind of evidence required from witnesses that could lead to an actual ruling in court.

But the government appears to have reached an impasse.

“At this moment, we have a dilemma. We could either move forward with the inquest or amend legislation to allow death certificates be issued in cases of missing persons,” said Photiou.

The church, which sent a representative to a meeting on this issue, said they could hold a service for the missing person purely on a religious basis.

But due to lack of conclusive physical evidence, the missing person would end up remaining on state records as missing, causing all sorts of issues.

Photiou said he will call the family back to his office to discuss the issue.

Knews understands there has been at least one other similar case, where the Republic of Cyprus has refused to issue a death certificate.

The Committee of Missing Persons (CMP) reportedly removes names from their list as soon as DNA tests link any human fragment with the person.

However, the Republic of Cyprus does not follow this policy.

“We believe that the delivery of a bone fragment, or a number of bones, does not give a full picture of what actually happened to the fate of the missing persons,” Photiou said.

Cyprus  |  missing  |  Republic  |  coroner  |  DNA  |  CMP  |  exhumation

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