Citizens in Action: The Search for Missing Persons – and the truth – in Cyprus

missing persons

One of many scars caused by conflict is that of missing persons, whose enduring impact can leave a painful legacy for societies that can take generations to heal.

In search of a clear definition of a missing person, the International Committee of the Red Cross has set out some two key parameters: a person whose whereabouts are unknown to his/her relatives; and who has been reported missing in accordance with the national legislation in connection to international or non-international armed conflict, internal violence or disturbances, natural catastrophes or any other situation that requires the intervention the State.

The missing persons issue is one of the most difficult consequences of the Cyprus conflict. Over the course of the period 1963 to 1974. The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), established in 1981 to ‘establish the fate of missing persons’, sets the total number at 1.958 – 1.464 Greek Cypriots and 494 Turkish Cypriots.

However, as the CMP lay dormant for many years, it was left to civil society to fill the void, advocating for common action on what was, after all, a humanitarian issue of relevance to all Cypriots. Thus, in 2005, a new organisation was established, representing families of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot missing persons, emphasising the link between exposing stories of violence and loss, and preventing conflict in the future.

In this, second part of this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast on Transitional Justice, we hear from Erbay Akansoy and Christos Efhymiou, two members of the Bi-communal Initiative of Relatives of Missing Persons, Victims of Massacres and other Victims of the 1963-74 Events, about their experiences, their work, and their hopes for the future.

Supplementary Resources:

Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus

Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) – Digging for a Future (vid)

Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future (documentary) (vid)

Thinking Historically about Missing Persons: A Guide for Teachers, 4. Missing Persons in Cyprus

Transitional Justice in the 21st Century

New Research on Transitional Justice (vid)

Does Transitional Justice Work? (vid)