SUNDAY TIMES - Hammerl riddle remains,,
Sunday Times STLive By Suthentira Govender , 2012-04-08

Hammerl riddle remains

Anton Harmmel
Image: Alon Skuy

Diplomatic red tape and a lack of forensic resources in Libya are stalling efforts to determine whether remains found in a mass grave in the North African country are those of slain South African photographer Anton Hammerl.

Last month, Associated Press journalists covering a story about a mass grave discovered in Bin Jawad - about 175km from the site where Hammerl was killed - stumbled on information about the remains of a white male. Hammerl's wife, Penny Sukhraj, was immediately alerted in London. "The fact that it was a white male with a physical description similar to that of Anton, and the circumstantial timing around the remains, made it a compelling case for further investigation," said Sukhraj.

The father of three was killed by militia loyal to slain ruler Muammar Gaddafi while covering the conflict a year ago.

Two US journalists, Clare Gillis and James Folley, and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo, who were travelling with Hammerl at the time, were arrested. Hammerl, however didn't survive the attack.

The trio have since returned to Libya in a bid to locate Hammerl's remains and help his family gain closure.

Two days after receiving news of the remains, Sukhraj dispatched Hammerl's dental records to Human Rights Watch representatives in Libya, as well as to Gillis and Brabo.

"They were meeting up with a South African official from the embassy in Tripoli and Libyan officials at a medical centre in Benghazi," said Sukhraj.

Sukhraj, who is still trying to cope with the pain of her loss, has received no word from either Libyan or South African authorities since then.

"These things are still very raw and terribly devastating for our family ... Protocol dictates that the South African authorities need to deal with their counterparts in the Libyan government with regards to the search for and recovery of Anton's remains," said Sukhraj.

International Relations and Cooperation spokesman Clayson Monyela said: "There are no developments to report at this stage, but work continues."