Eleven years of silence: remembering the brutal killing of photojournalist Anton Hammerl

Location of body of UK-based journalist killed during Arab spring uprisings remains unknown

 

Thursday 19 May marks the eleventh anniversary of the murder of Anton Hammerl, a UK-based photojournalist who was killed when covering the Arab spring uprisings in Libya.

Hammerl, together with fellow journalists James Foley, Clare Gillis, and Manu Brabo, was directly shot at by heavily armed al-Gaddafi loyalists in April 2011 while covering the protests which set the stage for the assassination of Libya’s former military dictator.

For six weeks, Hammerl’s family, including fellow journalist and wife Penny Sukhraj, were told that the four journalists were being kept in detention before actually finding out that he had been killed in what the family’s legal counsel has previously described as a potential war crime.

To this day, the whereabouts of Hammerl’s body remain unknown following the violent attack. Foley, Gillis and Brabo were captured on that same fateful day, while Hammerl was reportedly left for dead in the desert.

Following ten years of agonising silence, last year Sukhraj spearheaded a campaign to pressure Libyan authorities into providing information about the location of Hammerl’s body, with the family expressing hopes that a new Libyan government would turn over a new leaf and release information which has so far remained under wraps.

In a brief comment given to The Shift, Sukhraj explained that the situation in Libya has been “complicated” since then.

“It’s been complicated with the volatility in Libya and within the government structures themselves. We did initially have a promise to help several years ago, but nothing materialised. More recently, we wrote to the government again however, we have had no help, and neither have we had any indication of any help insofar as helping to locate Anton’s remains,” Sukhraj told The Shift.

To mark the anniversary of the date in which Hammerl’s family was actually notified of the photojournalist’s death, the family organised a discussion which will be held on Thursday at 8pm CEST, with the family promising to share new findings related to the brutal attack which cost Hammerl his life.

When asked about what is needed from the international community, Sukhraj stated that it needs to “directly engage Libya on this matter”.

“What happened with Anton amounts to a war crime. The international community needs to acknowledge this, against the backdrop of the ongoing killing of journalists without accountability, and act deliberately to force Libya’s hand in coming to the table, and taking concrete steps to investigate crimes of war. That would be the start of Libya’s demonstration of a commitment to truth, justice, accountability, law and order, amid a reputation of ongoing instability,” she added.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, the director of the Daphne Foundation, an entity which was set up to honour Daphne Caruana Galizia’s legacy following her assassination in October 2017, will be participating in the discussion.

When reached for comment, the Daphne Foundation reiterated the central cry behind the Hammerl family’s campaign, calling on the Libyan representatives in Malta to provide the family with whatever information it may have about the case.

Besides Caruana Galizia and Sukhraj, another one of the panelists for Thursday’s debate will include Diane Foley, mother to James Foley, who was also later killed in action when he was kidnapped by the Islamic State and executed.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, media freedom lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers and the Hammerl family’s legal counsel, will also be featuring on the panel. Inigo Gilmore, a freelance journalist, will be chairing the debate.

You can click here to find more details about the debate and how you can attend.

                           
                               
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