By Mike Freer MP - 13th July 2011
Mike Freer MP says it is time for the UK and other European powers to demand Turkey starts working towards full transparency and proper accountability.
The 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus left, according to official figures, 1,619 people missing. Thirty seven years later, less than 300 bodies have been located. The Turkish government has spent nearly four decades wilfully obstructing meaningful investigation, and it is now time for Britain and other European powers to demand Turkey starts working towards full transparency, and proper accountability. This is a humanitarian issue and that is why I have called a Westminster Hall debate on The Missing of Cyprus.
The Cyprus Committee of Missing Persons (CMT) was formed in 1981 through the UN, but it was not until 2007, following pressure from the European Union, that the Turkish government began to co-operate. Even now, four years later, politicians in Ankara are refusing to give the UN sanctioned committee access to their military bases in the occupied north of the island so the bodies of the missing can be located.
Since the work of the CMT began in earnest, the bi-communal nature of the committee has gone some way to healing old wounds, and contributing to the process of reconciliation. However, the CMT simply identifies the bodies, its remit does not extend to investigating how a person died. It brings some peace for a family to know whether their missing relative is alive or dead, but the manner of their death is of equal importance.
It is difficult to comprehend the grief and anguish that thousands of ordinary Cypriots have gone through since the invasion. Whole families and entire villages were rounded up and interned, with no regard for the rule of law or human rights. Almost every Cypriot was affected, whether it was a family member or a friend who disappeared. Finding the bodies, and bringing closure to the families, is a pressing humanitarian need.
I believe the government must take a clear and consistent line with Turkey: Comply with the UN resolutions and ECHR rulings immediately, or your membership of the European Union will become unthinkable for a generation.
Mike Freerhas been Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green since 2010