Argentine relatives to sue UK for Belgrano 'war crime'
BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) -- Relatives of all 323 Argentine sailors killed
the light cruiser General Belgrano was sunk in the Falklands War in 1982 will sue
for compensation and a war crimes trial for Margaret Thatcher.
After two parents filed for damages at the European Court of Human Rights
Strasbourg, France, this week, the rest of the seamen's relatives announced
Thursday that they would also seek justice for what they call a war crime.
The Belgrano, originally a U.S. ship which survived Pearl Harbor before
to become the pride of the Argentine fleet, was sunk by three torpedoes on May
2, 1982 after being tracked for nearly 36 hours by the British nuclear submarine
Argentines have long argued it was sunk on the orders of then British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher when it was outside a 200-mile (320-km) exclusion
zone around the Falkland Islands, heading for home. They believe she wanted to
undermine peace talks and enter the war to boost her popularity at home.
"We've fought for this for 18 years. They never admitted it was a war crime,"
said Paula Sosa, 63, whose son Osvaldo died on the Belgrano. "They are helping
us from the sky and the sea, because now Thatcher is going to get what she
"We don't want much money because money comes and goes, we want her in
jail like any other murderer," she told Reuters.
The kin of the Belgrano dead, nearly half of Argentina's losses in the
war over the South Atlantic islands whose ownership Argentina has disputed
since 1833, say it was sunk in the absence of a formal declaration of war and
contrary to wartime conventions set down in the Hague in 1907.
Two Argentine lawyers are in Strasbourg this week seeking damages for the
parents of two Belgrano victims. Now relatives of the remaining 321 dead have
instructed lawyer Teresa Moya Dominguez to represent them in Argentina and in
"We want Argentina's Supreme Court to rule on this, though it will probably
that traditionally foreign powers have immunity, and we are preparing our case
to present to the European Court," Moya Rodriguez told reporters.
Their case is inspired by the arrest in London in 1998 of Chilean ex-dictator
Augusto Pinochet for human rights crimes.
"It is now the right moment in history for this. Ten years ago it would
impossible," said the lawyer.
Asked how much the relatives would seek in damages or what sentence
Thatcher might face if convicted, the lawyer was cautious: "What we want
fundamentally is for the sinking of the General Belgrano to be recognized as a
Argentine Interior Minister Federico Storani said this week he was "in
criminal action" against Thatcher.
But although then President Carlos Menem said in 1994 that she should be
extradited if it were proved the sinking of the Belgrano was a war crime, his
Defense Ministry concluded in a report shortly afterwards that it was "a legal act
Diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina were restored in 1990
trade ties are flourishing. Argentina has hosted visits by British royals and
Menem met Queen Elizabeth in London in 1998.
Argentina continues to press its claim to the windswept islands, whose
inhabitants are fiercely pro-British, but by purely diplomatic channels at the
"It's not the fault of the British people," said Irineo Sosa, 65, whose
Angel -- the eldest of 12 children -- died on the Belgrano. "The only person I
accuse is the one who gave the order to sink the Belgrano: Margaret Thatcher."
A British diplomat said London had not been officially informed of any
action. "It will be for the European Court to decide whether the application is