An Argentine application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to investigate the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano in the 1982 Falklands Conflict with the loss of more than 320 crew has been met by surprise and rejection in the United Kingdom.
Lawyers acting for relatives of crewmen killed when the 13,500-ton cruiser was torpedoed, plan to take their case to the European Court next week, alleging British contravention of international conventions governing the conduct of war.
The move was described as preposterous and unwarranted by the former Governor of the Falkland Islands at the time of the Argentine invasion, Sir Rex Hunt. Britain, he pointed out, was defending British territory and British people. Argentina's military junta were the aggressors in that conflict. Relatives should take action against them, not against the United Kingdom.
The Ministry of Defence repeated its view that the sinking was justified in the circumstances. The Conservative Party Defence spokesman called it a justified act of war against what was a warship. Another Conservative Member of Parliament, Gerald Howarth, a former close aide of Margaret Thatcher, called the court attempt "utterly absurd". But a Labour MP, Tam Dalyell, renewed his long-running criticism of Prime Minister Thatcher's decision.
In what became the most controversial act of the conflict, causing most casualties, the Belgrano was sunk on Sunday , May 2nd, by two torpedoes fired from the British submarine Conqueror captained by Commander Christopher Wreford Brown, who was only 36 at the time.
Her had detected the Belgrano and her two escort destroyers, Hipolito Bouchard and Piedra Bueno, and tracked them for two days. The British Commander, Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, was convinced that his vulnerable Task Force, was the target of a planned Argentine Naval pincer attack from a battle group led by the aircraft carrier Veinte Cinco de Mayo in the North, and the Belgrano group in the south, deploying aircraft, exocet missiles and the cruiser's fifteen six-inch and eight five-inch guns, all bigger than any guns in his entire force. He sought and got permission from Margaret Thatcher's War Cabinet for the rules of engagement to be changed to attack the Belgrano outside the British 200-mile total exclusion zone around the Falkland Islands.
Several days earlier, on April 23rd, as the Task Force approached the Islands to liberate its 2,000 people from Argentine occupation, the British Govern