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A/HRC/51/31/Add.1: Visit to Cyprus - Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances


07 September 2022

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Enforced and involuntary disappearances


A delegation of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances conducted an eight-day visit to Cyprus from 5 to 12 April 2022.

The continued division on the island has an impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in general, including on the right to truth, justice, reparations and memory of the relatives of those disappeared after the events of 1963–1964 and 1974.

While recognizing considerable achievements in the search activities, notably due to the long-standing work of the bicommunal Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, the search progress has slowed in recent years and significant challenges remain. Considering the amount of time that has passed since the disappearances occurred in Cyprus and the advanced age of many relatives and witnesses, urgent measures are needed to accelerate the exhumations, identification and return of the remains of the victims. In this respect, it is essential to depoliticize the issue of disappeared persons in Cyprus and treat it as a human rights and humanitarian issue. Concrete results on the issue of disappeared persons can only be achieved through sincere and transparent cooperation among and clear and unconditional commitment by all concerned stakeholders to protect and uphold the rights of relatives to truth, justice, reparations and memory. It is essential to dispel mistrust to finally put an end to the anguish and pain of all families. The solution of the disappeared persons issue is essential both for the relatives and for the future of Cyprus.

The Working Group notes with concern that there has been no progress in Cyprus in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions for human rights violations resulting in individuals going missing, including possible enforced disappearances. While this is another essential pillar, together with truth, reparation and memory, there is very little emphasis on accountability in Cyprus. Many of the interlocutors who spoke to the Working Group during its visit, including relatives, suggested that progress in the search for the disappeared would be jeopardized if accountability was prioritized, also in line with the humanitarian mandate of the Committee on Missing Persons. While the Working Group understands and respects relatives’ position in this particular context, it wishes to stress that, according to international standards, an effective investigation into enforced disappearances must include information about the whereabouts and the fate of the disappeared persons, the circumstances of their disappearance and the identity of the perpetrators. Such an investigation is not only required under the State’s international obligations, but is also the best way to effectively combat impunity, realize the right to truth and justice for the victims and society as a whole and guarantee the non-recurrence of this heinous crime. In addition, all relevant information gathered in the search process, including possible criminal evidence, should be adequately collected and preserved for possible disclosure and use at a later stage.

At the same time, with respect to the right to truth, most of the relatives underlined that receiving the remains of their loved ones, sometimes only a small bone, was not enough and could often open more wounds and trigger more questions. The Working Group believes that the creation of a truth-telling exercise would be extremely important to protect and uphold the right to truth of the families, as both a collective and an individual right.

There are other areas that need further progress, in terms of legislative framework and preventive measures. Some of these measures can be taken swiftly, including the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the introduction of an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance in the Penal Code. In relation to the prevention of enforced disappearances, the Working Group – while noting the challenges posed by an increased number of arrivals on the island – is concerned at information received on pushbacks both at sea and at the Green Line. More efforts are needed to ensure that no one is expelled, returned, surrendered or extradited to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of enforced disappearance.


* The summary of the present report is circulated in all official languages. The report itself, which is annexed to the summary, is circulated in the language of submission only.
** The present report was submitted after the deadline so as to include the most recent information.

Issued By:

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Delivered To:

Human Rights Council Fifty-first session