Controversy has erupted in Argentina following the release in Facebook of clandestine pictures from the current exhumation works at the Darwin Cemetery in the Falklands with the purpose of identifying the remains of Argentine combatants in at least 95 graves with tombstone reading, “Argentine soldier, known only to God”.
Soldiers died during the brief conflict in 1982 when Argentine military forces invaded and occupied the Falklands until recovered by Britain.
The incident is in clear violation of the terms agreed by Argentina and the United Kingdom for the Humanitarian Plan Project which states the parties will release no names or data, for any cause, during the process. The field work, mostly in Darwin, is scheduled to conclude at the end of next month and first results available later this year.
As expected Malvinas Veterans, human rights groups, the media and the Argentine government are demanding replies from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is responsible, under the understanding between Argentina and the UK, and consent from the Falkland Islands, of all the forensic task, privacy and confidentiality of the operations, with the specific commitment of not allowing any media, or onlookers in a wide radius of the cemetery, which has been fenced and canvassed off, given the high sensitivity of the matter for the relatives.
The ICRC first reaction to the release of the pictures was to emphasize that they were absolutely not authorized. The ICRC condemns their dissemination. Out of respect for the families, we call on people to refrain from sharing these images. However the issue became more serious and demanding for the ICRC as different elements of the puzzle came together.
In effect, an ex Argentine Army/Navy NCO with a Facebook page on historic events referred to the Malvinas and claims 14.000 followers, Dante Cantone, came forward and admitted the publication of the pictures, which he says to have received from the Malvinas, of which he has more ready to release, and for which he needs nobody's permission to publish.
Cantone in an early interview added he even had pictures of the remains from which DNA samples are taken to check with those of possible relatives, and they were sent by the same person who provided the batch published. However in a later interview he denied having such pictures.
Veterans organizations reported the incident to Argentina's Human Rights Office, who's head Claudio Avruj is working on the matter, and also condemned the release. Mr. Avruj was in contact with the ICRC team in Darwin and is considering legal actions against the fellow who published the material, but is also insisting in a reasonable explanation from ICRC of the incident.
Maria Fernanda Araujo, president of the Malvinas Fallen Families said the whole situation was of great concern for the organization and efforts are focused on trying to determine ICRC responsibility for not having controlled that such pictures were taken at the cemetery and mailed. This is how far we reached; they will have to explain what happened in Court
Ms Araujo who lost a brother in the 1982 war and figures among the unidentified, added she had information that a person was granted special permission from ICRC to pay homage and pray at one of the graves, and if that is true, it's a serious breach of Article 6, which strictly limits access to the cemetery.
The Malvinas Fallen Families is also responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Argentine cemetery at Darwin, and Sebastian Socodo is their man in the Falklands. Allegedly he has access to the cemetery during the identification process.
Additional comments in the Argentine media mention that Julio Aro, head of the Veterans group Don't forget me, just returned from the Falklands revealed that the ICRC forensic work is making good progress, keeping to schedule and so far all graves exhumed had remains, which contradicts long standing rumors that some of them were empty.
Another veterans group speculated that the release of the pictures is part of a ploy to discredit the ongoing identification process, and one of its members recalled that when the white crosses of the 237 graves, of which 123 are unidentified, were renewed ”some of the names were put a piacere (imprecisely)”, meaning not all necessarily coincide.