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Development and future perspectives of a humanitarian forensic programme: the committee on missing persons in Cyprus example


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Background: In 1981, the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) was established with a clear purpose: to determine the fate of the missing Greek and Turkish Cypriots who disappeared during the periods 1963–64 and 1974. Following many years of investigations and negotiations, such as on a mutually agreed list of 2001 missing persons (493 Turkish Cypriots and 1508 Greek Cypriots), the CMP officially began its operational phase in 2006 with a small number of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists. Methods: This paper presents and analyses the development of the programme, the ways of providing assistance to other countries, and how the programme has influenced local and regional capacity. To do so, the authors performed qualitative and quantitative analyses to assess the programme accurately (annual staff numbers, annual excavations, exhumations and identifications, applied field and lab methods, internship and training programmes). Conclusions: The results show that the CMP has established a successful humanitarian programme, serving as a model for cooperation in a post-conflict environment. Since 2006, the team of scientists has grown in both numbers and experience, while the CMP has developed into a key player in the field of human identification that is able to provide expertise and technical assistance at a regional level. Ultimately, the authors were able to elucidate the current prospects and future perspectives of the programme to provide a holistic view to readers.
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R E V I E W Open Access
Development and future perspectives of a
humanitarian forensic programme: the
committee on missing persons in Cyprus
Maria Ktori
and Gülseren Baranhan
Background: In 1981, the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) was established with a clear purpose: to
determine the fate of the missing Greek and Turkish Cypriots who disappeared during the periods 196364 and
1974. Following many years of investigations and negotiations, such as on a mutually agreed list of 2001 missing
persons (493 Turkish Cypriots and 1508 Greek Cypriots), the CMP officially began its operational phase in 2006 with
a small number of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists.
Methods: This paper presents and analyses the development of the programme, the ways of providing assistance
to other countries, and how the programme has influenced local and regional capacity. To do so, the authors
performed qualitative and quantitative analyses to assess the programme accurately (annual staff numbers, annual
excavations, exhumations and identifications, applied field and lab methods, internship and training programmes).
Conclusions: The results show that the CMP has established a successful humanitarian programme, serving as a
model for cooperation in a post-conflict environment. Since 2006, the team of scientists has grown in both numbers
and experience, while the CMP has developed into a key player in the field of human identification that is able to
provide expertise and technical assistance at a regional level. Ultimately, the authors were able to elucidate the current
prospects and future perspectives of the programme to provide a holistic view to readers.
Keywords: Missing Persons, Cyprus, Identification Programme, Humanitarian Forensics
The forensic sciences can be defined as the unification of
different and vibrant disciplines employed in resolving legal
cases (Ubelaker 2015), and their defining principle is the
situation where the dead teach the living(Rathbun and
Buikstra 1984). The origins can be traced back to
sixteenth-century medical research on the cause and man-
ner of death in military operations, but it was not until
1832 that scientific techniques were applied by James
Marsh in solving a murder case of arsenic poisoning; this
was the first true forensic sciences case. Developments in
the field continued and the application of DNA analyses for
criminal cases was a real breakthrough in the 1980s as Alex
Jefferys work on the mammalian myoglobin gene cluster
and its individuality was employed in solving a double rape
murder case in Britain (James and Nordby 2003).
Physical anthropology played an important role from
the inception of the field of forensic sciences (Snow 1982).
The role of physical anthropologists quickly expanded into
the identification process of the dead during times of war,
thus raising the visibility of anthropology in the forensic
community (James and Nordby 2003). The dawn of the
twentieth century witnessed two of the most serious con-
flicts in human history, the First and Second World Wars.
The World Wars had international influence, and it is not
accidental that the first investigation of war crimes oc-
curred after the end of World War I, at the 1919 Versailles
Peace Conference (La Haye 2008).
* Correspondence:
Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Egyptian Journal o
Forensic Science
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Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25
Despite the severity of the two World Wars, the for-
mation of international tribunals, the United Nations
resolutions on the definition of missing person, enforced
disappearances were only recognised as a crime against
humanity in 2002 (United Nations 1998).
Considering the importance of the matter, the forensic
sciences, particularly forensic anthropology, have been
employed in human rights investigations. Such investiga-
tions have gone beyond the missing in armed conflicts and
developed further within the framework of political violence
(Fondebrider 2015). The military dictatorships of 1980s
Latin America gave the necessary impetus for the formation
of the Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF,
Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team) (Doretti and
Snow 2008). The Argentinean efforts gained international
acclaim and raised awareness of such problems to the de-
gree that more forensic investigation teams were established
in other countries. These international teams were also ac-
tively involved in the establishment of reliable and rigorous
procedures (Fondebrider and Scheinsohn 2015), developed
by forensic experts to provide protocols in the collection of
forensic evidence so that the perpetrators could be prose-
cuted (Ousley and Hollinger 2012).
The 1990s Balkan crisis and Yugoslav Wars resulted in
the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal
for the Former Yugoslavia, which initiated a large-scale
intensive investigation of mass graves, with significant
contributions by the Physicians for Human Rights
(Fondebrider 2015).(Fondebrider and Scheinsohn 2015)
Shortly afterwards, in 1999, the International Commis-
sion on Missing Persons was established and acquired
the necessary forensic capacity to identify more than
15,000 missing persons since then (Tidball-Binz 2012).
As in the case of the Latin American forensic identifica-
tion programmes, their European counterparts were
conducted for legal purposes, aiming to identify and
prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes.
Cyprus suffered from inter-communal fighting in
196364 and the events of 1974, which left the island
scarred and Cypriot families seeking answers for the
fate of more than 2000 missing persons. Between the
years 1974 and 1977, the fate of the missing persons
was an important discussion point in a series of inter-
communal meetings on the problem. During the next
3 years (197781), the negotiations continued in
Nicosia, Geneva and New York with the aim to es-
tablish the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus
(CMP). The United Nations General Assembly
Resolutions issued in 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981, and
1982 are indicative of the importance of establishing
such a body. The CMP was ultimately founded in
April 1981 under the aegis of the UN. Its unique
nature as a humanitarian forensic programme has a
singular local, regional and international impact.
This paper presents a succinct overview of the CMPs
project, from its foundation until today. To do so, the
authors performed the following:
a) Archival research regarding the specific historical
background related to the CMP;
b) Review of international forensic programmes to
present and contextualise the CMP case;
c) Qualitative analysis of the projects establishment
and development (200616), with the involvement
of organisations such as EAAF;
d) Qualitative and quantitative analysis regarding the
scientists employed by CMP, as well as the field and
lab operations;
e) Qualitative and quantitative analysis of the CMPs
internship and training programme;
f) Overview and discussion of the CMPs public
outreach on a local and international level.
A decade of humanitarian forensics in Cyprus
The inter-communal fighting in 196364 and the events
of 1974 left Cyprus in disarray and mourning for the
missing. The numerous missing persons were an import-
ant issue from 1974 onwards. The two communities
conducted a series of talks during 197577 and negoti-
ated further during 197781. The result was the estab-
lishment of the CMP in 1981 (United Nations 1981),
which became the first committee in Cyprus, jointly run
by Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots under United
Nations auspices.
The CMP consists of three members: the Greek Cypriot
and Turkish Cypriot communities are each represented by
a Member appointed by their respective leaders, while the
Third Member is nominated by the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and is appointed by
the UN Secretary-General. The Committee Members
make decisions on the basis of consensus, and the
mandate clearly states the CMPs humanitarian mission
(Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus 2015a). One
should note that the Committee will never seek or attri-
bute responsibility for the death of a missing person or
the circumstances of their death. It will, however, as stated
in Article 13, make every effort to compile a comprehen-
sive list regarding each communitys missing persons, spe-
cifying, as appropriate, whether they are alive or dead and,
in the latter case, the approximate time of death.
After its establishment in 1981, the two communities
focused on the investigative part regarding the missing,
aiming to compile a common official list of the disap-
peared. The CMP list was agreed upon in the late 1990s
and includes 2001 missing persons (493 Turkish
Cypriots and 1508 Greek Cypriots). The leaders of the
two communities reached an agreement in 1997 to
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 2 of 12
provide each other immediately and simultaneously all
information already at their disposal on the location of
graves of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing per-
sons (Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus 2015b).
This was a significant step forward, enabling the CMP to
process the information and prepare accordingly for its
operational phase.
In 2004, the Members decided to align with the proposals
formulated by the Secretary-General and consider ways to
expand the Committees scope of activity and responsibility.
The first steps taken towards this were decisive; the CMP
established a timetable aiming to conclude the remaining
investigative work on both sides, while relatives were called
to give blood samples for the identification process. These
efforts were enhanced by inter-communal meetings with
the United Nations and the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC), facilitated by the Secretary-General. The
aim was to finalise the investigation process and proceed to
the exhumation and identification operations. In 2006, the
leaders of the two communities met with the UN
Secretary-General and the CMP Third Member and reaf-
firmed their commitment to and support of the work of the
Committee (Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus
2006). To that end, the CMP issued an international call for
experts and initially partnered with the UK-based forensic
organisation INFORCE.
Shortly after, the ICRC proposed that the CMP collabor-
ate with an international organisation that would organize,
build and direct the archaeological and anthropological
phases of the Project on the Exhumation, Identification, and
Return of Remains of Missing Persons.TheCMPchoseto
collaborate with the EAAF, and international forensic ex-
perts trained and supervised the scientists until the end of
2007 (Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus 2015c).
The team of scientists was officially named Bi-Communal
Forensic Team BCFT, and has been known so ever since.
The field operations ran simultaneously with the train-
ing and the work carried out at the CMP Anthropological
Laboratory (CAL). The excavations and exhumations were
conducted all over Cyprus under the supervision of the
EAAF experts (Fig. 1) (EAAF 2009). Since 2008, the EAAF
has remained a close collaborator with the CMP, serving
as a consultant to the project, and the field and lab teams
have operated independently since (Committee on Miss-
ing Persons in Cyprus 2015c).
The identification process carried out by the CMP is a
very disciplined and demanding procedure, that has
evolved significantly since the recommencement of the
CMP operations in 2006. The procedure has now been
consolidated into the following seven phases: a) antemor-
tem data collection, b) collection of witness information
in combination with archival research, c) an archaeological
phase, d) an anthropological phase, e) a genetic phase, f)
identification, and g) the return and burial of the remains.
a) Antemortem data collection process
Antemortem data collection is a structured process
comparable to international examples. It requires the re-
spective Members Office to complete a strictly confi-
dential antemortem data form for each missing person,
following the ICRC principles. These forms are the basis
of the Antemortem Data Base - Information File for the
Identification of Relatives, as all the data and the spe-
cific characteristics of a missing or deceased person are
catalogued. Previous research has demonstrated the
value and importance of artefacts and how they are han-
dled by the CMP scientists, especially at this early stage
of the identification process (Moyssi et al. 2016).
b) Collection of witness information in combination
with archival research
The antemortem data collection took place after the
two conflicts and resulted in a significant amount of
information which became a building block of this
project, as in other cases of forensic identification
programmes (Moyssi et al. 2016). The antemortem
data are being enriched further with archival research
both locally and abroad.
Fig. 1 A mass grave exhumation under the coordination of EAAF in 2008 (left) and a mass grave exhumation in 2016 performed exclusively by
the CMP archaeologists (right)
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 3 of 12
The very first investigators employed by CMP had first-
hand experience of the tragic events, enabling then to empa-
the families of the missing. The current, much younger in-
vestigators have contributed equally and have been directly
facing the problem of the witnesses dying out. In all cases,
teams of investigators process the information and visit pos-
sibleburialsiteswiththearchaeologists and, when possible,
the witnesses. This gives the archaeologists the chance to
contextualise and clarify everything prior to an excavation.
The CMP faces great challenges regarding witness infor-
mation, as the witnessesold age and landscape changes
over the years have a negative impact on locating a burial
site (Moyssi et al. 2016). Considering the sensitivity of the
matter, the CMP has taken action to broaden the investi-
gative efforts. Since August 2016, a team of researchers
has undertaken the complex task of conducting an impar-
tial review of archival material from international organi-
sations, domestic authorities and state actors that were
present during the two conflicts. It is hoped that this effort
will provide new information for the location of burial
sites and the successful exhumation of the remaining
missing persons, aided by the application of new technolo-
gies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The
use of GIS will allow the investigators to build a new data-
base to facilitate better management and follow-up of the
witness and archival information, which will then assist in
the overall investigation process (Committee on Missing
Persons in Cyprus 2016a).
c) Archaeological phase
On-site discussions amongst investigators, scientists
and witnesses have proven to be valuable from early
on because the archaeologists must assess and draw
on the information as to plan the excavation. In 2006,
the first archaeological field team began its operations
and established that the possible burial sites were
more complex than initially thought to be. Each site
was different in terms of terrain, location, accessibil-
ity, and many more variables which affected the over-
all operations and the time needed to complete them
(Fig. 2). Early excavations demonstrated a discrepancy
between the expected exhumation rates and the ac-
curacy of the provided information, which was re-
solved by hiring more staff and creating more field
teams (Fig 3). Each team was composed of two Turk-
ish Cypriot and two Greek Cypriot archaeologists,
with one archaeologist acting as Team Leader, along
with a heavy equipment operator. The teams were
initially coordinated by an EAAF expert; since 2009,
they have been coordinated by a Field Coordinator
from each community and a Turkish Cypriot Deputy
Coordinator since 2016. Currently, there are nine
teams, seven operating in the north and two in the
The variables previously mentioned persist in all cases,
since forensic archaeological excavations are conducted
in unconventional environments. These environments
became a standard in the CMP archaeological operations,
and consequentlytraditional archaeological methods were
applied and creatively employed to tackle problems and to
address complex excavations, such as those of deep wells
(Çeker and Stevens 2015), exhumations of commingled
remains and so forth.
The systematization employed by the field teams re-
duced the contamination across an excavation (Crist
2001) and allowed the collection of contextual informa-
tion (Dirkmaat and Adovasio 1997), as it is a critical as-
pect during exhumations (Moyssi et al. 2016). After a
comparison between the early and recent field opera-
tions, it was evident that the archaeologists were able to
overcome any difficulties and complexities during an ex-
cavation. The island-wide operations have always been
regulated by strict guidelines that adhere to international
practices, as reflected in the Field Standard Operating
Protocols (SOP). From the initial training under the
guidance of the EAAF, the archaeologists have developed
consistently and have now reached the desired level of
internal capacity which is also reflected in their profes-
sional development (Figs. 1,3).
From this decade of field operations, the archaeolo-
gists have excavated and recorded a large number of
sites that have produced an equally large amount of data.
The exhumations themselves have provided the CMP
with crucial data on burial patterns, which have been
uploaded on a GIS database and are combined with
archival and witness information in order to locate more
possible burial sites. Furthermore, the CMP intends to
integrate the inspection of possible burial sites during
excavations with geophysical methods (e.g. ground-
penetrating radar, metal detectors) to provide the ar-
chaeologists with a more accurate image of each site and
increase the success rate (Committee on Missing Per-
sons in Cyprus 2017a,2017b).
The great variability and complexity of forensic arch-
aeological sites remains a key factor in adapting and
developing the field SOP further. The standard arch-
aeological stages in a CMP forensic excavation have
now been consolidated into the following six: a) site
risk assessment and preparation of a health and safety
plan by the Health & Safety Coordinator, b) initial
documentation of the site, c) intensive pedestrian sur-
vey (when the terrain permits it), d) controlled
mechanical-aided excavation, e) exhumation (when hu-
man remains are encountered), and f) restoration of
the area to its prior state. It has previously stressed how
landscape alterations affect both the investigation and
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 4 of 12
the archaeological phases (Ktori et al. 2016), as well as
the methodical work followed to establish the biogeo-
graphical context (Haglund and Sorg 2002). The overall
discipline that characterises the field teams is demon-
strated through their work in cases of mass graves,
complex well excavations (Çeker and Stevens 2015),
and the establishment of new excavation methods
(Ktori et al. 2016 (Fig. 2).
The field teams have excavated more than 1000 sites
in 10 years and have encountered a plethora of practical
difficulties. Several of these sites are considered hazard-
ous, and the CMP has addressed this issue decisively by
training the staff (especially for identifying unexploded
ordinance and asbestos in excavations). They have estab-
lished a team specifically for excavations with asbestos,
with the rigorous application of all related health and
safety regulations. There are regular visits by the Health
and Safety Coordinator in the field, and a health and
safety plan has been implemented in every excavation.
As a result, the field operations have been conducted
with the utmost safety, even in the most difficult
d) Anthropological phase
In 2006, a small number of anthropologists were
employed by the CMP to form its forensic anthropo-
logical team. They had participated in the early field
operations and began analysing skeletal remains as
soon as the CAL was established. Between 2006 and
2008, the anthropological team was coordinated by an
EAAF expert, and in 20082011 by a CMP anthro-
pologist. In 2011 and 2012, more staff was hired and
divided into two anthropological teams that perform
simultaneous analyses, resulting in an immediate in-
crease in analytical capacity. Since 2012, there have
been two coordinators at the CAL, one from each re-
spective community (Fig. 3).
Fig. 2 From top to bottom: (a) a mass grave exhumation with the EAAF in 2007, (b) an exhumation of commingled remains, (c) an archaeologist
entering a well, (d) an exhumation inside a well, (e) creating terraces during a deep well excavation, (f) an exhumation inside a kiln, (g) recording
a site with total station, (h) exhumation of a shallow burial on a mountain
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 5 of 12
The CAL has four main functions: a) to receive the re-
mains exhumed during the field operations, b) to conduct
forensic anthropological analyses on the human remains
and the material evidence, c) to recommend the identifica-
tion of an individual via the Identification Coordinator in
conjunction with the CAL Genetics Unit to the CMP Mem-
bers, and d) to return the identified remains to the family of
themissingpersonviatherespectiveCMPMembers office.
Between 2006 and 2008, the anthropologists were
trained by the EAAF coordinator in a variety of cases,
ranging from remains recovered in an anatomical pos-
ition to the reconstruction of commingled remains and
remains from mass burials (Fig. 4). Skeletal remains are
analysed to establish the physical characteristics, and,
along with dental remains, they are used to determine
an individuals biological profile. The anthropologists are
always working in blind analysis to maximize impartial-
ity and reduce confirmation bias in the tests conducted.
The anthropologists follows international standards for
the analysis of skeletal remains (Byer 2005), which are com-
municated in the SOPs. Everything is checked, chain of cus-
tody forms are signed, and the CMP photographer takes
the laboratory entry photographs. Then, the remains and
artefacts are packed, labelled, and identified with a location
on a printed plan of the storage facility until analysis.
There are three phases of analysis: a) initial, b) inter-
mediate, and c) final. For the initial phase, the remains
and artefacts are cleaned, labelled based on the field re-
cords, and photographed. An anthropological report is
then prepared to describe them. The intermediate phase
has varied complexity, as articulated skeletons are less
complex than cases of commingled remains or mass or
disturbed burials. Articulation of the remains requires dif-
ferent analytical strategies, as commingled or disturbed re-
mains are associated with bodies or body parts by pair
matching, reconstruction, or a process of elimination.
Again, every step of the process is photographed and re-
corded in a report. At this point, the anthropologists ana-
lysing the remains select the bone samples they should cut
and send to the DNA laboratory for DNA and kinship
analysis. In the final phase, the anthropologist can make
final changes before completing the analysis and proceed-
ing with the results to the genetic phase. The final phase
also includes the compilation of a catalogue of unassoci-
ated artefacts that is shown to families during the family
viewing meetings (Moyssi et al. 2016).
e) Genetic phase
The identification of missing persons would not typic-
ally have been possible without acquiring DNA samples
from their relatives. The CMP initially collaborated with
the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics to col-
lect blood or buccal samples which would then be used
in DNA extraction and profiling of the relatives. It then
became possible to establish the Family RelativesSam-
ples Database. Later on, the CMP contracted the DNA
Laboratory of the International Committee on Missing
Persons (20122014) and Bode Cellmark Forensics
(from 2014 onwards) to perform the genetic analyses re-
quired for the kinship match reports. These are sent to
the CAL Genetics Unit, which is staffed by two geneti-
cists who interpret and confirm the results. The samples
must reach a threshold equal to or greater than 99.95%
to produce a positive identification match.
f) Identification of the remains
Once the anthropological and genetic analyses are
concluded, the CMP enters the reconciliation stage. In
this sixth stage of the identification process, a team of
scientists representing all involved disciplines (the
Fig. 3 The CMP staff members (20062016)
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 6 of 12
archaeologist responsible for the archaeological report,
the anthropologist who analysed the case, the geneticist,
and the laboratory coordinator) convene to discuss the
findings. The team reviews all the data related to the
case: the antemortem data, the witness and archival in-
formation, the archaeological report, and the anthropo-
logical and DNA analysis results. Since 2012, the
reconciliation meetings have been supervised by the
Identification Coordinator, who examines and ensures
that all protocols were followed in every identification
stage and that the evidence on the missing persons iden-
tity is conclusive (Fig. 5).
g) Return and burial of the remains
Once the reconciliation stage concludes successfully,
only then does the CMP proceed to the final stage,
where a psychologist informs the family of the missing
regarding the outcome. The family is invited to the
CAL, where a team of scientists present the findings
to the relatives and explain each stage of the process
that led to the identification. The affected relatives
are always supported by a psychologist throughout
the identification process, especially during the vie-
wings, as it affects them considerably (Moyssi et al.
2016). The psychological support provided to the rela-
tives and the active participation of the CMP scientists
until the release of the remains can be considered an
integrated system that meets the needs of a humanita-
rian investigation and the affected families, a critical
element that exists in other international examples
(Keough et al. 2004).
The CMPs public outreach efforts
In 2010, the CMP produced a short film entitled Digging
for a Future, in which the scientists speak about their
work and are filmed during its various phases (Commit-
tee on Missing Persons in Cyprus 2010). This was the
first act of public outreach since the beginning of the
programme. Considering its humanitarian nature and
the questions which had been raised on various aspects,
the CMP proceeded with the necessary sensitivity to ad-
dress the matter. In April 2014, the CMP held an all-day
event entitled Searching for our Missing. This was the
first time the scientists had the opportunity to interact
with the public and the relatives of the missing. The
Fig. 4 The anthropological analyses conducted at CAL, resulting in the positioning of a skeleton in an anatomical position with associated artefacts
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 7 of 12
event allowed the public to familiarise themselves with
the CMP itself and the identification process. Most im-
portantly, they were introduced to the group of Cypriot
scientists who had been working tirelessly to provide
them with the answers they had been seeking since the
1960s and 1970s.
The CMP has also participated in the Europe Day
Festival since 2014, where the scientists have success-
fully presented the CMP project and actively engaged
with the public. Furthermore, the CMP Members
have increased their efforts to raise awareness in the
European Parliament and the European Commission.
Fig. 5 The stages of the CMP forensic identification analyses: (a) the antemortem information on a missing person, (b) the exhumation of
remains and encountering an artefact on the individual, (c) anthropological analysis, (d) preparation of skeletal sample for DNA testing, (e) the
reconciliation meeting
Fig. 6 The CMP donors (20062016)
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 8 of 12
The culmination of these efforts was the hosting of
the CMP exhibition Beneath the Carob Trees: The
Lost Lives of Cyprusin 2016 at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York with the Secretary-
General, at the European Parliament in Brussels with
the Presidents of the European Parliament and Com-
mission, and at the United Nations headquarters in
Geneva with the Director-General of the United Nations
Office in Geneva and the President of the ICRC. On all
three occasions, the photo exhibition was combined with
the launch of a book of the same name as a means of
reaching a greater number of diplomats, parliamentarians,
humanitarians and other people who can support this
humanitarian cause.
The recognition of the CMP as a model organisa-
tion led to the formation of a successful partnership
with the ICRC. In 2013, the CMP became a training
and study centre for scientists and stakeholders, pro-
viding specialised practical training to more than 30
scientists from the Middle East. The strong bonds
between the CMP and the ICRC, as well as the
EAAF, led to the formal memoranda of understanding
amongst these organisations in early 2017 (Committee
on Missing Persons in Cyprus 2017a,2017b). The
CMP has also provided internship opportunities since
2012. The interns have the opportunity to train at the
lab or field, or a combination of both, as a means of
gaining practical experience in applied Forensic
Anthropology and Archaeology. Of course, nothing
would have been realised without the continuous sup-
port of our donors, particularly the European Union,
which has funded the programme generously from its
inception until today (Fig. 6). Without their financial
support, the CMP would be unable to alleviate the
pain of many Cypriot families who have spent de-
cades enduring uncertainty over the fate of their
loved ones or to assist the reconciliation process
between the two communities.
Fig. 7 The statistics on annual exhumations, identifications, and the recovery rate of human remains, and the identified missing persons
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 9 of 12
The early involvement of the EAAF created the neces-
sary mechanisms for the scientists to work under, and
employ in all cases, rigorous protocols in every stage of
the identification process. Despite the difficulties and
challenges the scientists have faced, it became an au-
tonomous team that operates incessantly throughout the
year and has developed significantly during these 10
years of operations.
The overview of the available data has shown the fol-
lowing: a) the CMP has initiated the review of archival
material from international and local bodies in the inves-
tigation stage, b) there has been an increase in staff
numbers and thus an increase in field and lab teams, c)
Fig. 8 The CMP excavations (20062016) on a Google Earth interface (top) and the statistical analysis per annum and district (bottom)
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 10 of 12
the increase in staff numbers has enhanced the capacity
and multidisciplinary character of the field and lab teams,
d) the increase in field teams has resulted in an increased
number of annual excavations, e) the decade of CMP op-
erations has established it as a key player in human identi-
fication, and f) the CMP has a proven that it plays a
positive role in the reconciliation process in Cyprus.
Between 2006 and 2016, the archaeologists excavated
1123 sites and recovered the human remains of 1192 indi-
viduals (Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus 2016b).
The increase in the annual number of excavations (e.g. 57
excavations in 2006 compared to 155 in 2010) reflects the
increase in staff numbers, particularly in the years 2010
2012 (Fig. 3and 7). Within 6 years (20062012), it became
possible to increase the number of teams, starting with
one team in 2006 and having nine teams since 2012. This
has positively affected the operational capacity of the field
teams and enabled them to excavate more areas, with an
average of approximately 100 forensic archaeological exca-
vations annually (Fig. 8). Of course, the increase in field
teams and the number of sites excavated has influenced
the exhumation success rate. Therefore, the success rate
of 2006, with a single team excavating 57 locations, ap-
pears to have been higher than that of 2013, when nine
teams excavated 151 locations (40% success in 2006, 15%
success in 2013).
The lower success rates reflect the problems the CMP
faces, namely, the decreasing number of witnesses who
can provide accurate and reliable information. The CMP
and the leaders of the two communities have often
appealed on this matter to the public, while the CMP
has taken measures to remedy the problem. The integra-
tion of geophysical methods and remote sensing tech-
niques (e.g. ground-penetrating radar), satellite imagery,
and the use of drones for aerial imagery are some of the
methods currently tested in field operations. The pri-
mary goal is to establish the most successful method for
locating clandestine burials to increase the annual ex-
humation numbers.
Reflecting upon todays changing world, one realises
that there are still problems requiring humanitarian
action. One of the greatest problems is the ever-
increasing number of missing persons. Even when
people can no longer be reunited with their loved ones,
the certainty of a relativesdeathispreferablebecauseit
enables the survivors to mourn and recover. The
Cypriot experience of 2001 missing persons from the
two conflicts resulted in the establishment of a
programme to recover, identify and return the remains
to their families. From 2006 to 2016, the remains of
1192 individuals were exhumed through the Project on
the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains
of Missing Persons of the Committee on Missing Per-
sons in Cyprus.
The CMP is a successful project in Cyprus where
Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have been work-
ing together on a daily basis for more than a decade.
Both communities exchange best practices and serve
as a model for cooperation (Arni et al. 2016). The
programme promotes peace by identifying and return-
ing missing persons to their families. This gives the
necessary closure and thus continuously lowers an
important barrier for reconciliation. Previous research
has shown that memorialisation and remembrance are
fundamental in tragedies that traumatise societies.
Yet, the acknowledgement of the death of people can
serve as a constant example of past mistakes that fu-
ture generations should refrain from repeating
(Robins 2014). The CMPs public outreach efforts
have displayed exactly that, while its work has dem-
onstrated that positive outcomes from such public
events could be further extended and better incorpo-
rated in the island-wide effort of healing historical
trauma. Of course, the ultimate effort of healing the
trauma would be the determination of the fate of
every missing person, which has been the CMPspri-
mary goal from the very beginning.
The research conducted by the authors elucidated key
stages in the inception and establishment of the CMP.
The authors were able to highlight the development of
every phase of the identification process and to demon-
strate the rigorous processes applied by the scientists
that ensure the quality of the identification results. The
development of the programme transcends the scientific
level, as the CMP serves as a model for cooperation in a
post-conflict environment. Its primary goal has remained
the same throughout the years, to determine the fate of
all missing persons. The authors were able to demon-
strate that the programme had the necessary dynamic to
evolve into a key player in the field of human identifica-
tion both nationally and regionally.
The numbers refer to the years 20052016, which
were pertaining to this article. Please refer to the official
website for the latest progress, at
BCFT: Bi-Communal Forensic Team; CAL: CMP Anthropological Laboratory;
CMP: Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus; EAAF: Equipo Argentino de
Antropología Forense (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team);
GIS: Geographic Information Systems; ICRC: International Committee of the
Red Cross; SOP: Standard Operating Protocols
Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 11 of 12
The authors would like to thank the Members of the Committee on Missing
Persons in Cyprus (Mr. Paul-Henri Arni, Mrs. Gülden Plümer Kuçük, Mr. Nes-
toras Nestoros), for facilitating their research and sponsoring their participa-
tion in the 2nd Forensic Middle East Congress. Moreover, the authors would
like to sincerely thank the scientists of the Bi-communal Forensic Team, as
their hard work and continuous efforts provided them with the necessary
data to carry out their research and write this paper.
Presented in part at the 2nd Annual International Congress of the
International Association of Law and Forensic Sciences (IALFS), 17-19 January
2017, in Cairo, Egypt. The views expressed in this text are those of the au-
thors and not necessarily those of the CMP.
The authors did not receive any funding to carry out this research. They
were only sponsored by the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus to
participate in the 2nd Forensic Middle East Congress and present their
Availability of data and materials
The data and materials are protected by the Committee on Missing Persons
in Cyprus confidentiality protocols, and are not accessible to the general
The authors worked jointly on every section of the paper. Both authors read
and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Not applicable.
Consent for publication
Consent to publish was obtained from all participants.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affiliations.
Author details
Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Aglantzia, Cyprus.
University of Glascow, Glasgow, UK.
Received: 27 July 2017 Accepted: 28 February 2018
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Ktori and Baranhan Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2018) 8:25 Page 12 of 12
... The CMP consists of three members: a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot member appointed by their respective leaders, while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) nominates, and the UN Secretary General appoints the Third Member (Fig. 2). The three Members make decisions based on consensus, in accordance with the CMP's mandate to fulfil a humanitarian mission [5]. According to article 11 of the mandate, "the Committee will not attempt to attribute responsibility for the deaths of any missing persons or make findings as to the cause of such deaths" [6]. ...
... The Committee may refer requests for disinterment to the ICRC for processing under its customary procedures" [6]. Taking up on ICRC advice, the CMP collaborated with the Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), to organise and direct anthropological and archaeological staff into what is today the Bi-Communal Forensic Team (BCFT) [5,9]. The CMP successfully established a rigorous seven-phase-identification procedure: a) ante-mortem ☆ The views expressed in this text are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP). ...
Full-text available
**The full paper is available upon request** This paper reports on coastal exhumations performed during 2006-2022, under the framework of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) humanitarian identification programme. CMP archaeologists investigated 217 coastal locations and recovered skeletal remains on 44 occasions. Challenging environmental conditions required a customized exhumation plan, which could be executed swiftly without compromising operational integrity or standards. The author performed a retrospective analysis to propose an optimized strategy, which includes a survey, exhumation, digital documentation, and post-processing components, with the aim of minimizing the effects of adverse environmental conditions. The proposed strategy is based on scientific standards and observations in the field; it can satisfy the needs of a humanitarian or criminal investigation if appropriate measures are taken to uphold legislative and forensic standards. The author also discussed the taphonomic effects of coastal erosion and wave activity in tandem with exhumation recommendations to assist forensic practitioners involved in similar investigations.
... There is an ever-increasing number of missing persons in Australia and abroad [1]. In Australia, an average of 38,159 missing persons reports are filed each year (between the period of 2008 and 2015) [2]. ...
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Objectives: Forensic anthropologists assign biological profiles (ancestry, biological sex, age and stature) to skeletal remains to assist with the human identification process. The humerus can be used for the assessment of biological sex and subsequently for stature. Materials and Methods: Post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT) post-cranial sample data were utilized to form three-dimensional (3D) models and allowed for subsequent “virtual” measurements as an alternative to dry bone osteometric measurements. Samples consisted of humeral PMCT Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) datasets from 51 individuals from a contemporary European-descent adult Queensland (Australia) Coronial population, aged between 17-83 years, obtained from Brisbane Mortuary from 2016 – 2018. Threshold based segmentation was conducted in Amira® (VSG, USA) to form 3D humeri models. Plane-to-plane and point-to-point anthropometric measurements were performed in reverse engineering program, Geomagic Design X® (3D Systems Inc., USA). Five standard measurements of the humerus (maximum humeral length, vertical diameter of the humeral head, epicondyle breadth, maximum and minimum mid-shaft diameter) were assessed. In both models, Bayesian model averaging was determined as the most appropriate analytical. Results: Estimation equations from the United States of America were assessed for their applicability to the Queensland population, and are not recommended for assessing biological sex or stature. The vertical diameter of the humeral head was determined to be the best indicator for biological sex, and the maximum length of the humerus is the best indicator for stature. Discussion: This paper proposes preliminary biological sex and stature estimation equations for their utility to contemporary Australian casework.
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Biological profiles (ancestry, sex, age and stature) of skeletal remains assist with the identification of missing persons. Standards for estimating the sex and/or stature for the humerus of an Australian population are yet to be developed. This research aims to develop sex and stature estimation equations for the humerus specifically for a Queensland population. Samples consisted of humeral PMCT Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) datasets from a contemporary Caucasian Australian adult sub-population, aged between 17-90 years, obtained from the Brisbane Mortuary and QUT's Medical Engineering Research Facility from 2016 – 2018. Threshold based segmentation was conducted to form 3D models of the humeri, which was then measured according to the five standardised measurements of the humeri. This thesis presents the results of the preliminary sex and stature estimation equations developed from this research and their utility to contemporary missing persons casework.
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Humanitarian projects of DNA identification of the missing in conflict zones have impacts on the professionals conducting them, the networks and families of the missing, and societies at large. This chapter engages the multiple uses of forensics and bioconstitutionalism to trace the humanitarian project in Cyprus. It notes the ambivalence toward, and sometimes the impossibility of, closure, even when science reaches its conclusions in a laboratory. Interviews with anthropologists, psychologists and surviving networks and family members shed light on the social and political complexities inherent in the identification and symbolic "return" of lost family members.
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The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) is a bi-communal body established in 1981 by the leaders of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities with the participation of the United Nations. The objective of CMP is to recover, identify and return to their families the remains of 2001 missing persons from the inter-communal fighting of 1963-64 and the events of 1974. So far, the remains of 969 individuals have been exhumed, 458 Greek-Cypriots and 145 Turkish-Cypriots have been identified . With an area of 9,251 square kilometres, Cyprus is the Mediterranean’s third largest island. The diversity of the island’s coastal geomorphology is a direct result of the island’s geological formation, the weather conditions and other hydrological factors. This diversity is visible when comparing the coastal area island-wide; thus, it can be also observed in the forensic coastal sites that have been investigated so far by the Bi-Communal Forensic Team (BCFT) of archaeologists. Since 2006, the BCFT archaeologists have excavated more than 900 sites across the island. The forensic coastal sites are particularly challenging in terms of geological and environmental conditions, weather and hydrological factors. Consequently, the taphonomic processes are distinct and require a specific forensic approach. The excavation and exhumation methodology processes that have been applied by the BCFT archaeologists at coastal sites are differentiated as to those applied in other types of sites in Cyprus. In this presentation, the challenges of coastal excavations are presented and explained, with special focus on the exhumation process of skeletal remains in such cases. Moreover, it is discussed how those challenges affect the overall operations before, during and after an excavation, and especially an exhumation. Based on current scientific literature and forensic practices applied by internationally renowned organisations, the authors will propose more preferable techniques to be employed at coastal sites. Accordingly, the combination of standard archaeological practice and the forensic experience via the CMP programme are necessary to carry out and develop interdisciplinary methods of coastal excavations.
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In Argentina, as in many other parts of the world, the disciplines within a forensic or medico-legal investigation field have traditionally focused around medicine, odontology, radiology and toxicology. The chaotic start of forensic archaeology in Argentina, with no official or institutional backing, without any official involvement of university anthropology departments, and with no interest from the forensic system, is consistent with the history of most academic disciplines in Argentina. Forensic archaeology in Argentina was born with the investigations into the human rights violations that had been committed during the last military dictatorship. In Argentina, the academic field includes neither a major in forensic anthropology or archaeology nor a regular course, except the one given by the Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF) at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) School of Medicine, which began 17 years ago.
Heightened recognition by law enforcement personnel of forensic archaeology provides an expanding array of opportunities for historical archaeologists to apply their skills in situations of medicolegal significance. Yet too few archaeologists are familiar with the protocols of criminalistics, including crime scene processing, chains of custody, and effective court testimony. Also, most archaeologists do not fully realize the health risks associated with handling decomposed human remains and the professional liability exposure inherent to a juridical investigation. As a group, historical archaeologists undoubtedly possess the skills and ethical disposition required of forensic scientists, but those who wish to offer their services as forensic experts must also be prepared to assume the serious responsibilities of doing so. This paper discusses the development of forensic archaeology, the specialized training that qualifies one to participate in a crime scene investigation, methods to reduce health risks and professional liability exposure, and the most effective approaches an historical archaeologist can follow to become certified as a forensic expert.
The field of forensic anthropology has evolved dramatically in the past 40 years, as technological advances have led to new research initiatives and extended applications. This robust, dynamic, and international field has grown to include interdisciplinary research, continually improving methodology, and globalization of training. Reflecting the diverse nature of the science from the experts who have shaped it, Forensic Anthropology: An Introduction incorporates standard practices in addition to cutting-edge approaches in a user-friendly format, making it an ideal introductory-level text. The book begins with a historical overview of forensic anthropology and then presents the background and methodology of each specialty area. Designed for readers without previous theory-based or practical physical anthropology course experience, each chapter gives a detailed history and explanation of a particular methodology. Presenting topics within their areas of accomplishment and expertise, the authors include up
Does international law make individuals responsible for perpetrating war crimes during internal armed conflicts? Eve La Haye explores the content of international criminal law applicable in such conflicts and questions the 1995 finding of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that responsibility could be enforced on the basis of customary international law. This finding is evaluated with regard to state practice and the practice of international organisations. The means to enforce individual criminal responsibility for such crimes are also investigated. The states on whose territory the crimes took place have sometimes tried such perpetrators, but can other states prosecute perpetrators of war crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction? The applicability of universal jurisdiction to war crimes committed in civil wars and the practice of domestic courts are examined, alongside the role and achievements of prosecutions carried out by international courts and tribunals.