If Scotland Yard is really looking for evidence, here it is: Diplomatic relations having been restored with Britain, there is little enthusiasm for a 'war crimes' inquiry

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF OSCAR CARRIZO'S account is true, he was the victim of a war crime as defined by the rules of war laid down in the Geneva Convention. Under the rules, once an enemy soldier has surrendered and been disarmed, he is entitled to protection and decent treatment. But the battlefield is a place where rules are unlikely to be foremost in a soldier's mind.

Investigations of war crimes perpetrated by the victors in a conflict are rare. 'The victors can usually shut this kind of thing up,' said a Ministry of Defence official. It was the publication, in 1991, of Lance-Corporal Vincent Bramley's book, Excursion to Hell, with its account of the shooting of Argentine prisoners by British soldiers, that made these alleged crimes an exception.

A preliminary investigation by the Special Investigation Branch of the British military police began early last year. The conclusions were reported to the Ministry of Defence which in turn handed them on to the Crown Prosecution Service. At that point, because the alleged perpetrators would now have left the army, the investigation was taken up by Scotland Yard.

Detectives and forensic experts have visited the Falkland Islands twice in the course of their investigations. Ten days ago, on the second visit, forensic experts were excavating the heavy peat of Mount Longdon.

Eleven years after the Falklands conflict, Britain and Argentina are enjoying a diplomatic honeymoon which both sides fear could be soured by the investigation. It is an election year in Argentina and the possibility of renewed public indignation over the almost forgotten war is viewed with thinly disguised apprehension by President Carlos Menem's government. 'At the moment there is not much of a hue and cry about this subject here,' said a senior government official. 'But it . . . is extremely sensitive.'

Even the Argentine army seems embarrassed. 'I know Carrizo's story,' said Colonel Alfredo Noverasco, the army's spokesman. 'Officially, the army has no position on this. It's up to the British to investigate. I think it's probably a question of judgement, of trying to understand the moment.'

General Jorge Jofre, now retired, commanded the Argentine land forces in the Falklands. 'I never heard of anything like this happening, throughout the war or after it,' he said. 'If it happened, it was something that happens in every war, not accepting surrender through tiredness or fear or because of the loss of comrades. Of course it is not the norm, but since soldiers are men they can deviate from the norm.'

The Argentine army, according to the Ministry of Defence, is conducting its own investigation, the conclusions of which will be forwarded to the ministry of justice and the foreign ministry. But beyond the resurrection of Carrizo's file, with his original account, and a general invitation to any other witnesses or victims to come forward, little appears to have been done.

'They haven't called me to give evidence,' said General Jofre. 'Nor have I heard anything about Scotland Yard investigating here. I will talk to the Argentine army, not to Scotland Yard. I doubt if this investigation will get very far.'

At the end of last year, Scotland Yard notified the Argentine government that it wished to pursue its investigations in Argentina. Fernando Petrella, Argentina's deputy foreign minister, says British investigators are expected in the country within two months and have submitted a list of names of men they wish to interview to the Argentine government. Oscar Carrizo does not know if is on Scotland Yard's list, but will talk to them if he is. 'Why not?' he says. 'It is the truth.'