Waking the dead

6 Aug

A report from PressTV claims that the Commission of Malvinas War Families are intent upon initiating legal action against the UK Government for atrocities against Argentine soldiers after the end of the Falklands war in 1982.

According to this report, several Argentine prisoners were killed or seriously wounded when they were forced by the British Army to do dangerous jobs in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. One example given is of prisoners forced to carry explosives. Another relates the murder of a captive by a British officer when the prisoner was set on fire in an explosion.

To this has now been added a report in Mercopress highlighting a petition submitted to the Criminal and Correctional Federal Court by a Centre of Malvinas War Veterans, urging the Argentine authorities to arrange for the identification of the remains of some 123 soldiers buried in the tomb of the ‘Unknown Soldier’.

It is unlikely that these two reports are unconnected. Indeed with Argentina in an election year and with the 30th anniversary of the 1982 conflict fast approaching, there would appear to be a political motive fuelling these two stories.

At the end of the short Falklands War, Argentina’s Government was requested by the British authorities to repatriate their dead. Argentina refused, saying erroneously that their soldiers were already on Argentine soil and should remain there. Out of respect for the dead, a plot of land was donated and the soldiers given a christian burial.

The cemetary contains 114 marked graves, and one with, “Argentina solider, only known by God”.

Access to that cemetery has been the basis of much political capital ever since and was not resolved until diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored in 1989. This agreement gave access to the relatives of those dead soldiers although the restrictions that Argentina continues to place on air transport to the islands has meant that the trip is both expensive and difficult to access.

Looking back over the history of this dispute, and Argentina’s approach to emotive rhetoric it seems that once again the dead are being used for political purposes.

Even the petition could not resist the inclusion of nationalistic sentiment, ” … with the purpose of returning to the unknown soldiers their identity, history and the circumstances in which these heroes gave their lives in defence of Argentine sovereignty over the Malvinas…”.

A response, in the form of a letter in Mercopress from the Falkland Island’s Government public relations team, states, ” … DNA identification and its ability to name the dead after so long is clever science, but in this case causing much angst. Some believe that the dead should be allowed to rest in peace whilst others, particularly families, want to know in which grave their father, son or brother lie so that they may rightfully grieve their loved ones. Whichever way, whilst the Argentine Government maintains that they are buried on Argentine soil they will continue to be used as political pawns. Even after death, these servicemen are being used in a war of words in a cold-hearted attempt to point score on the international stage.

Should it happen, it would undoubtedly involve a team of scientists, probably Argentine, exhuming and identifying each body over a lengthy period. It is understood that the Argentine Families Commission do not support this proposal. Whether this is wanted should ultimately be decided by the families of those that fell, whether it will happen and who decides that will be more problematic…”

There is little doubt that the FIG will do the decent thing and allow an examination of the bodies if so requested.

There is also no doubt that the Government in Buenas Aires will take as much political advantage as it can from the inquiry.

Such is the nature of Argentina.






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