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MEMORANDUM REGARDING DESECRATION OF WAR GRAVES AT SEA

By the assembled members of the ISA (International Community of Submariners Associations) at the 51st convention in Athens.

Preamble:

Wrecks of sunken warships and submarines have recently been salvaged and plundered on a large scale for collectable items and scrap metal, with disregard of the remains of the crew.

There is irrefutable evidence (including photos and videos obtained by onsite inspections) that several warships and submarines of different nationalities sunk during World War 2 in the Pacific theatre of war have recently been severely damaged or have disappeared completely. What happened to the remains of the deceased crewmembers is unknown.

This is an affront to the people who gave their lives in service of their country.

At their official congress meeting 2014 the Heads of Delegation of the International Submariners Associations unanimously condemned these practices. Basically it is considered theft since these wrecks are legally the property of the flag states. Especially worrisome is the practice by unscrupulous scrap metal dealers to salvage these wrecks for financial gain, with total disregard for the deceased that lie in them. They should be left to rest in peace in their grave at sea.

War graves on land are protected and cherished. Children adopt the graves, memorials are well kept and war graves foundations all over the world are heavily subsidized.

Our war dead at sea deserve the same consideration and respect.

Therefore:

The members of the ISA call on all governments and relevant international organizations

  • To put an end to these practices and endeavour to come to an international recognized legal protection regime for these graves at sea.

If salvage of a wreck is required for compelling reasons:

  • This should be decided in consultation with the flag state of the designated shipwreck, with consideration for the relatives of the crew.
  • If there are still remains of the crew in a wreck a burial should take place at a graveyard to be selected by the flag state, if possible in dialogue with the relatives.