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Final report of the Special Investigations Group (SIG), Cyprus

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Throughout the Cyprus Emergency of the late 1950's a constant theme of EOKA and Greek Nationalist propaganda was to accuse British Security Forces of conducting a campaign of brutal repression against the Greek Cypriots. Detention Centres were labelled as Nazi concentration camps, Greeks, it was claimed, were erroneously accused of terrorist activities, and British soldiers blamed for beating up and whipping children and for trashing the homes of innocent Greek families. These allegations were not only spread locally on the island but also pursued on the international stage. To counter this particular stratum of pernicious propaganda, in June 1958 the Cyprus Government formed a Special Investigations Group to document the activities of the Security Forces and expose EOKA lies and exaggerations.

Cyprus Emergency - Greek Nationalist Propaganda Pamphlet

This colourful pamphlet is just one example of a sophisticated global propaganda campaign designed to discredit Britain and demonise the Security Forces. Tens of thousands of this and other propaganda literature were mailed around the world. Each item was produced in different languages including English, Greek, French, German, Spanish and Arabic.




From experience in the earlier part of the Emergency in Cyprus it was found that allegations against the conduct of Security Forces was one of the main features of the terrorist organisation's (EOKA) campaign, waged locally hut designed to have its effect equally on the international front. The campaign aimed at:

(a) discrediting the Security Forces locally, at Strasbourg and in international circles generally;

(b) engendering hatred locally of the Security Forces;

(c) diverting and discouraging the Security Forces from their proper tasks.

2. Experience with the Human Rights Committee locally and at Strasbourg showed that Government could not afford to let such allegations pass uninvestigated and unchallenged. Equally, it was important for the Security Forces to know that they were being properly supported by the authorities.

3. It was therefore decided in early June 1958 to set up a Special Investigations Group as an important unit in the campaign to defeat EOKA. The duties of the Group were to investigate immediately, and record, the facts in major cases of allegations against the conduct of the Security Forces with a view to:-

(a) issuing a prompt, positive and accurate denial of any false allegations;

(b) preparing the ground in cases where legal action could be taken against the offenders, with minimum delay;

(c) maintaining a record for use, if required, before the Human Rights Committee at Strasbourg;

(d) forestalling subsequent faked or exaggerated allegations.


4. The main aims of SIG were:-

(a) immediate tactical aim - the wresting of the initiative from EOKA in the propaganda and "smear" campaign;

(b) ultimate and over riding aim - the prevention of allegations against the Security Forces and, in any case, to buttress their morale.

To achieve these aims the Group required maximum co-operation from the Security Forces and the civil administration.


5. The Group was composed of a Chief Superintendent of the Cyprus Police, an Army Major and a Detective Sergeant of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Cyprus Police.

From experience gained, it was later decided to appoint representatives in areas/divisions drawn from Police, Army and civil administrative ranks, who carried out the policy of the Group in dealing with minor complaints/allegations; they also acted as an Early Warning System to alert the Group over major allegations. The Office was set up alongside PR within the COSDO organisation and operated directly under the Chief of Staff. Close touch was also maintained with the Administration and the Law Officers.


6. In practice, counter-action against the Campaign of Abuse was divided into two main categories:-

(a) forestalling complaints/allegations by timely on-the-spot investigation by SIG and the publication of the accurate facts before any allegations were made;

(b) immediate investigation of major complaints/allegations made and issuing a prompt, positive and accurate statement or denial.

Arising from this action, records were compiled and examined with a view to determining whether or not there were grounds for a prosecution against any individual or newspaper that had published the allegations.


7. The following methods and techniques were evolved:-

(a) Existence of the Group. Although knowledge of the existence of the Group became known to EOKA and that organisation redoubled its efforts to make investigation more difficult, the press and general public never became fully aware of its exact composition and methods. This "incognito status" assisted the Group in many of its investigations in the field.

(b) Official Role. An important aspect in every case investigated was to instil confidence in and gain the co-operation of the Security Forces at all levels. The soldier and the policeman were sometimes hesitant in making a clean breast of what had actually happened for fear that later, in some way, their actions might be construed as acts of indiscipline. On the Group’s side, it was vitally important that it did not condone indiscipline or illegality. Hence close touch was maintained with SIB and CID and whenever cases occurred which clearly demanded their attention, SIG did not intervene. Border-line cases were fortunately extremely rare, and it is fitting to record that no conflict ever arose. The Security Forces as a whole afforded the Group maximum co-operation once its role was fully understood.

(c) Planned Operations. An effective drill was devised over planned operations, such as cordons and searches of villages. Initially, a local member of the District Administration in collaboration with the Military and civil police kept a close check on all complaints/allegations throughout the Operation. Finally, before the curfews and cordons were lifted, SIG attended to deal with the major complaints/allegations. A statement for release to press could then be prepared before the local Human Rights committees and press could arrive and conjure up false or exaggerated allegations.

(d) Handling of the Press. Both English and vernacular editions of the local press preserved an antagonistic attitude throughout the Emergency to Government, and Security Forces in particular. It was therefore the constant endeavour of SIG to get in first with an official release on any Security Forces' activity likely to give rise to allegations. This was achieved in many cases and the outcry was considerably lessened as a result. It was also found that because Greek Cypriots, as a race, are sensitive to ridicule, effective use of lime-lighting the absurd and improbable allegations carried considerable weight from a propaganda point of view.

(e) Photography. At an early stage it was discovered that villagers were given to "rigging” premises searched by the Security Forces with the objects of:

(i) denigrating the Security Forces;

(ii) claiming excessive compensation for damage.

Therefore premises which had been thoroughly searched were photographed in the presence of owners/occupiers. This not only revealed cases of deliberate "rigging", but also introduced a psychological factor whereby complaints of damage lessened in volume and extent. At a later stage, major units of the Security Forces were issued with cameras so that they could carry out this practice as normal procedure after any thorough search of premises.


8. The Group dealt with 191 cases during its nine months in office. When it is considered that the Campaign of Abuse was planned well before terrorism started in Cyprus, and that for years it was waged relentlessly by a public conditioned and encouraged by EOKA, then the size of the task in combating it can well be appreciated. In the event, there is every indication, including that from captured EOKA documents, that the Group's functions were well-conceived and successfully executed. Had it been formed at an earlier stage during the Emergency it is believed that the battle for public opinion would have had greater chances of success, that the extent to which the "Smear" Campaign eventually rose would have been held in check, and the task of the Security Forces made easier.

[Source: TNA CO 926/1075, transcribed by]



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