Evidence on Argentine shootings

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The Independent Online
THIS PHOTOGRAPH provides new evidence that British soldiers killed Argentines as they tried to surrender in the Falklands war.

The two Argentinian soldiers pictured were shot dead, along with a third man, seconds after putting their hands in the air and shouting in English 'Hey, don't shoot'. The paratroopers involved insist that the killing was during battle and was unavoidable.

Last week, detectives involved in the seven-month inquiry into alleged war crimes returned from visiting the Falklands to search for bodies and witnesses. The picture highlights the issue which a police source described as 'the nub' of the investigation: were Argentinian soldiers killed in the heat of battle, or afterwards?

The final decision whether to charge anyone will be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions, but it appears likely that, if soldiers were killed - even if surrendering - during battle, no action will be taken.

Scotland Yard's inquiry followed allegations in a book by Vincent Bramley, a former lance- corporal in 3 Para, that during and after the battle for Mount Longdon several prisoners were shot, including three American mercenaries. Seven separate claims of British paratroops murdering Argentines are being examined.

A former member of 3 Para told the Independent on Sunday last week how three Argentines trying to surrender were killed during the night battle. They had a sniper's rifle and night-vision goggles. The former soldier, who did not want to be named, said: 'As I reached the ridge these men stood up with their hands in the air and spoke in an English, American, kind of accent. I was so shocked at hearing them, I hesitated and didn't shoot, but my gunner let rip. He just reacted to seeing three men suddenly appear.'

The machine-gunner was 40 metres away, he said, and would have had difficulty either seeing or hearing clearly what was happening. He thought the dead men were in the Argentine special forces, and had possibly emigrated from England or America.

Further accounts of unarmed Argentinian soldiers being shot were in The Scars of War, a book by Hugh McManners, published in January. It quotes a Sergeant McCullum, of A Company, 3 Para, as saying: 'B Company had a different attitude (to taking prisoners) - because during their attack (on Mount Longdon) they were having to push on so fast. There was no time to look after their own wounded, let alone prisoners. What can you do, leave prisoners in the bunkers to shoot the guys following on?

'If, when you are pushed forward, these people come running out of trenches with their hands up, what can you do? There isn't anybody to take them back . . .

'If you stop the momentum of an attack for anything, prisoners, wounded or whatever, you've lost the battle.'

Major Bob Leitch, who was responsible for gathering and burying the dead, told Mr McManners: 'Guys were shot with their hands in the air, surrendering. The bodies made this quite clear . . . and it wasn't just the strange positions of cold and rigor mortis. They were standing in their trenches and had been shot as the troops assaulted over the top of them, probably having been shooting themselves until the last minute. . . . The rules of the Geneva Conventions don't work in the heat of the battle.

(Photograph omitted)

Training to kill, page 22