The South African Legion of Military Veterans has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the desecration of Commonwealth and Italian war graves in the Libyan town of Benghazi, where some 200 gravestones were vandalised by unknown assailants in two attacks at the weekend.
The Legion, in a statement, says of the 1214 Commonwealth graves, 82 are the final resting places of South African soldiers.
“The SA Legion believes that respect must be shown to all the fallen, be they former allies or enemies. In fact, reports indicate that not only Commonwealth graves, but also graves of Italian soldiers were desecrated,” the organisation adds.
“No group has taken responsibility for the outrage, and the Libyan authorities have apologised, nonetheless, the SA Legion calls on all responsible members of our society, including Government, opposition parties, all religious groups and all organisations in this country that believe that ‘Ubuntu’ is more than just an empty word to take a stand in this matter and condemn this action.
“Furthermore, the SA Legion wishes to make clear its strong feeling that all war graves, of all combatants, from any era and fighting for whichever cause, must be treated with respect and dignity and is working actively to make sure that no war graves are ever desecrated in South Africa.”
It is not clear if any South African graves were attacked.
Libya’s leadership apologised for the vandalism Monday and yesterday said it had tracked down and detained a group of young people believed to blame for the attacks. Australia’ The Daily Telegraph newspaper reports the armed youths smashed 198 graves and then uploaded video of their rampage to YouTube. Also destroyed was the Cross of Remembrance common to most British war cemeteries.
The vandals can be heard saying “Destroy that cross, they are dogs” and “We begin with this one then we’ll take care of that other one. We won’t leave any left”.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission pledged to restore the graves.
Pic: A screengrab of the attack