Penny Sukhraj-Hammerl is building a case to discover what happened to the body of her husband and seek justice for his death through one of the UK’s leading law firms.
Anton Hammerl was murdered by forces loyal to Colonel Gadaffi during the Libyan civil war. Sukhraj-Hammerl found out on 19 May 2011 that her husband was dead after 44 days of being led to think that he was alive in captivity along with other journalists including James Foley, the US freelancer who was later beheaded by a member of ISIS’s UK-born ‘Beatles’ militants.
Hammerl’s remains have never been found. There has never been an investigation into his death. Sukhraj-Hammerl addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2021 to call for one.
Now Sukhraj-Hammerl, who lives in London with her family, is holding a public event at Paddington’s Frontline Club on Thursday, 19 May along with members of her legal team at Doughty Street Chambers, led by human rights barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC. The event marks the anniversary of finding out the news that upended her life overnight.
James Foley’s mother, Diane (who has just seen one of her son’s torturers imprisoned), will join Sukhraj-Hammerl at the event along with Matthew Caruana Galizia, one of the sons of assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. They will discuss significant evidence linked to Hammerl’s death for the first time in public.
Sukhraj-Hammerl’s legal battle comes as the safety of journalists in war zones is once again a global theme in the fallout from the war in Ukraine. Her case is emblematic of the lack of accountability for the killing of journalists and potentially pivotal in helping to safeguard those working in conflict areas.
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Hammerl, a South African photojournalist and photographer, travelled from the U.K. to Libya in early 2011 to cover the nation’s civil war, part of a wave of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring.
On 5 April, days after arriving in Libya, he and three other journalists came under fire while covering the conflict from forces loyal to the nation’s ruler, Colonel Gaddafi. Hammerl was shot and critically wounded. The other three ― James Foley, Claire Gillis and Manu Brabo ― who were witness to the fatal shooting, were captured and detained.
In the following days, Hammerl’s family was led to believe for 44 days that he was still alive, and campaigned tirelessly for his release. They discovered on 19 May that Anton had been killed more than a month before. A decade on, there’s still been no investigation into his death.
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