Sunday, December 5

Argentina: The Red Cross works in the Falkland Islands on a mass grave of unidentified Argentine soldiers | International


Members of the Humanitarian Project Plan 2 in the Darwin cemetery, in Malvinas.
Members of the Humanitarian Project Plan 2 in the Darwin cemetery, in Malvinas.ICRC

Argentina believed for 39 years that in grave number C.1.10 of the Darwin cemetery, in the Falkland Islands, the remains of four combatants from the 1982 war against England rested. Their names have been on a tombstone since 2004: Sub-Ensign Ricardo Sánchez, Héctor Aguirre, Mario Luna and Luis Sevilla. But the information was wrong. A forensic team from International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has exhumed the bodies this week and has detected that they belong to at least five people and not four, as was believed until now. It remains to know who they are.

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“On Tuesday the 17th, despite the adverse weather conditions, we were able to exhume tomb C.1.10. We first called a priest, who blessed the operation, and then proceeded to rescue the remains. We have detected bones, remains, but not whole bodies. The state of preservation is quite good, which will allow us to do the DNA examination with the samples already collected from the relatives. We are sure that at least five people are in that grave, ”Laurent Corbaz, coordinator of the Humanitarian Project Plan 2, reported at a virtual press conference this Thursday.

The identification of the remains located in this common grave will be carried out in the genetic laboratory of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in Córdoba, in the center of the country. A plane is scheduled to depart on the 26th from Malvinas to this Argentine city with the necessary material to discover who they belong to. In two or three weeks the results will be known.

The main hypothesis with which the forensic team in Malvinas works is that they are soldiers killed by the explosion of a helicopter belonging to the Albatros de Gendarmería group on May 30, 1982 in Monte Kent. “The helicopter explodes and six people die. When Cardoso recovers the bodies, 3 months after the incident, he recovers fragments of Sánchez’s body and three more soldiers that he could not identify, ”explained Luis Fondebrider, director of the ICRC’s forensic unit in Geneva and former director of the EAAF. “They are skeletonized, due to the helicopter explosion and because they were exposed to the elements for more than three months,” he added.

Of the 649 Argentines who died in the Malvinas War, 237 were buried in Darwin. British Colonel Geoffrey Cardoso, in charge of collecting the corpses in 1982 and burying them, could not identify the remains buried in 121 of the graves, which included the tombstone “Argentine soldier known only to God.” In 2017, the ICRC spearheaded the first humanitarian project agreed with Argentina and the United Kingdom to identify these bodies. They succeeded in restoring the identity of 115. To remove the remaining seven from anonymity, the EAAF asks families who lost their loved ones in the war and have not yet provided genetic material to contact them.

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In his report on the Argentine combatants buried in Darwin, Cardoso specified that in common grave C1.1.10 rested the remains of Sánchez located on Mount Kent and of three other unidentified soldiers. However, when the cemetery was remodeled in 2004, together with Sánchez the names of Aguirre, Luna and Sevilla were added without having mediated an exhumation. These three members of the Air Force weren’t really there. Their bodies were located in 2017 in individual graves that until then had remained anonymous and it became necessary to clarify the true identity of those who were in the common grave, the main objective of this second humanitarian project.

Tomorrow, Friday, experts on the ground will travel to an area of ​​Soledad Island known as Teal Inlet by the English and Caleta Trullo by the Argentines to investigate the possible existence of other skeletal remains. The excavation will be carried out in the area indicated by a doctor of the British troops who was there during the war. According to his testimony, there are the remains of at least one Argentine soldier who remained off Cardoso’s radar at the end of the war.

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