Family members of Malvinas War soldiers buried on the islands as unknown soldiers have begun to receive the results of the identification process carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) earlier this winter. That process identified 88 previously unidentified soldiers and comes days after the results were handed over to the Argentine government last week in Geneva, Switzerland.
Today, eight families were informed of the precise location of their loved ones in the Argentine cemetery on the islands, sparking emotional scenes for many after decades of uncertainty.
“This will bring us a little bit of peace even if our grief is permanent. I never thought we would get to this point. I think it’s incredible” said Norma Gómez, one of those who pushed for identification to take place, according to the Télam news service. Gómez received information about the remains of her brother Eduardo Gómez, who was 19 when he was sent to the war after earlier being drafted into military service. Norma Gómez also paid tribute to the memory of her mother, who died this year before her son could be identified and who can “now rest in peace.” She also said that she is now looking forward to the opportunity when she can travel to Malvinas to affix a plaque to the tomb that she now knows belongs to her brother.
There are currently 237 servicemen buried at the Argentine war cemetery on the islands which commemorates the 1982 war, of which 123 lie in unmarked graves bearing the words “Argentine soldier known only to God.” Following an agreement between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 2016 that came after years of talks, and with support of a majority of the families of the dead, the ICRC from June to August exhumed and analyzed 121 tombs and 122 bodies and cross-referenced them with DNA provided by family members. While some samples provided by family members have been inconclusive when compared to DNA samples of those buried on the islands, the DNA taken from exhumed bodies can be used going forward should more samples be provided. The DNA analysis was carried about by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EEAF) and labs in the United Kingdom and Spain carried out quality control of the analyses.
Family members also received technical explanations of the work carried out by the ICRC on the islands, as well as assurances that the remains were treated with respect and dignity. After samples were taken, the bodies were re-buried on the same day. Personal items found in the tombs deemed essential for the identification of the soldiers will also be returned to family members. According to Télam, these items range from letters, a watch to a wedding ring.
“Today is a very special and sensitive day for society as a whole, that helps us to close some wounds because the families are beginning to know where their loved ones are,” said Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj. “This process started with the previous government and for various reasons it didn’t come to fruition. This administration didn’t abandon the issue, we went further and continued it. We need to be above partisan and ideological issues when it comes to humanitarian law” he added.
79-year-old María Inés, mother of slain soldier Macedonio Rodríguez, also attended the meeting with officials from the Human Rights Secretariat, said that “we take with us at least the good news that he could be identified and we can begin to close this wound 35 years after the war.” She said that now she would like to travel to Malvinas to put her son’s name on the tombstone on his grave.
The process to inform family members of the ICRC results continues.