ICRC: DNA Identification of Argentine War Dead: Next Of Kin Visit: 13 March 2019

Relatives of Argentine soldiers, identified since the previous visit organised last year, were able to visit the Argentine cemetery near Darwin on Wednesday, 13 March 2019. The subsequent announcement that two more Argentine soldiers had been identified by DNA testing under the ICRC project brings the total of identified remains to 112 out of the 122 unnamed Argentine graves in the cemetery.

Over 60 Argentine family members visited the Argentine cemetery near Darwin under humanitarian arrangements that mirrored those devised for the first such visit in March 2018. The relatives were accompanied by the Argentine Human Rights Secretary, Claudio Avruj, the head of the Argentine Families Commission, Maria Fernanda Aranjo, and representatives of the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British Embassy in Buenos Aires. Others included Julio Aro, the head of the Argentine veterans’ organisation ‘No Me Olvides’ (‘Don’t Forget Me’) and Geoffrey Cardozo, the British officer tasked at the time to gather the remains of Argentine soldiers killed during the 1982 conflict into a single burial ground.

The party was met by the Commander, British Forces, Brigadier Nick Sawyer, and the Governor’s representative. The service was conducted by an Argentine cleric, accompanied by local Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy. An Honour Guard was supplied by the Scottish Regiment making up the roulement infantry company. An Argentine bugler played ‘Silence’, the Argentine equivalent of the ‘Last Post’, and a Scottish piper played laments. The head of the Argentine Families Commission gave a short address and presented CBF with a floral wreath to be laid at the British military cemetery at San Carlos.

With prior agreement, an Argentine flag was unfurled but kept below waist height as a gesture of respect to the Argentine dead. The Argentine side also endorsed a ‘Code of Behaviour’ to be issued to all Argentine visitors to the cemetery making it clear that political slogans, military insignia and any memorabilia implying Argentine sovereignty over the Islands would not be allowed. A marble plaque was also erected indicating the agencies responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.

The Falkland Islands Association welcomes the identification of Argentine soldiers killed in 1982.  It is hoped this will bring some small measure of comfort to the families of the soldiers concerned, for whom the time since the conflict has been particularly sad and painful.