This undated photo shows photojournalist Anton Hammerl. (AP Photo/Saturday Star - Independent Newspapers Ltd)
This undated photo shows photojournalist Anton Hammerl. (AP Photo/Saturday Star - Independent Newspapers Ltd)

Family of slain former Saturday Star lensman to approach SA government for answers about this death

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published Apr 3, 2021

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Human rights lawyers representing the family of missing photographer Anton Hammerl will be approaching the South African government for information they hope will help in tracking down his killers and finding his body.

The former Saturday Star chief photographer was killed in Libya a decade a go while covering the country's civil war. His remains have yet to be found.

Now five days before the 10th anniversary of his death, Hammerl’s family with the help of human rights lawyers from the firm Doughty Street Chambers in London launched a campaign to get justice for Hammerl.

The initiative called #JusticeforAnton kicked off on Thursday with the legal team filing three complaints with the UN.

The first of these is with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The other two complaints were filed with the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The legal complaints stated that there was “a clear indication from the outset that Mr Hammerl, a civilian, had been unlawfully targeted and that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that his killing constituted a war crime” in violation of international law.

Hammerl was killed on April 5, 2011.

He had travelled to Libya as a freelance photographer from the UK, where he had relocated to from South Africa.

On that fateful day he had driven out from Benghazi with three other journalists, the late James Foley, Clare Gillis and photographer Manu Brado.

Hammerl was shot in the stomach when they came under fire from pro-Gaddafi forces. He was left to die.

The other three journalists were detained and held for 44 days.

Penny Sukhraj, pictured here with husband Anton Hammerl

In that time Hammerl’s wife, Penny Sukhraj-Hammerl, was led to believe he was still alive and being held. This information was passed on to her via the Libyan and South African authorities.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “The South African authorities were in communication over a period of time with the Libyan officials, during the 44 days when James Foley was missing and it was believed that Anton was with him. And there were multiple communications in the period after 2011.

“There is a freedom of information request coming your way. Give us what you can, so we can get on with looking at the material that is available.”

Protesters in Cape Town call for the release of Anton Hammerl.

Besides bringing those who killed Hammerl to justice, they also want to investigate the alleged cover up by the Libyan government.

Since 2011 the trail to find Hammerl’s body has grown cold, with very few leads.

Speaking at the online #JusticeforAnton event on Thursday, Sukhraj-Hammerl spoke of the anguish of not being able to bring his body home.

“It is difficult to explain the trauma and grief and much of it is ongoing. Yet we have had to learn to live with the fact that Anton died. It is very difficult explaining to a young child growing up without his father where he is and why we have no gravestone,” she said.

Sukhraj-Hammerl added that she was now ready to launch the #JusticeforAnton campaign as she felt emotionally stronger now than in years gone by.

In an act of remembrance, Hammerl's family announced on Thursday that they planned on the 10th anniversary of his death on April 5 for there to be a minute’s silence, at 1pm.

The Saturday Star

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