THE RIGHT TO LIFE1
A. General Considerations
1. Since independence, Argentina’s legislation has contained provisions designed to protect life as a fundamental legal good. Article 18 of the Constitution abolishes forever the death penalty for political offenses.
2. Subsequently, because of the circumstances the Republic of Argentina has faced and with which this Report has already dealt, the Government that took office on March 24, 1976 enacted laws establishing severe penalties, including the death penalty for the purpose of eradicating subversion.2
In this chapter the Commission will deal with the deaths attributed to the government authorities or their agents, in violation of the legislation just cited.
3. One of the aspects directly related to the right to life is the problem of the disappeared, which, because of its special importance, will be dealt with in a separate chapter of this report. Accordingly, this chapter only deals with cases relating to the right to life, and excludes the above-mentioned problem.
B. Deaths attributed by claimants to government agents
1. Before and during its on-site observation, the Commission received a great many reports and considerable testimony relating to the right to life in Argentina, which claimed that the security forces were responsible for the deaths of various persons.
Among the reports received by the IACHR, the following may be cited:
2. Case 3358 – Rosa Ana FRIGERIO3
On June 17, 1978 the following report was made:
On August 25, 1976, Rosa Ana FRIGERIO, aged 20 years, was arrested in her parent’s house located at Olavarría 4521, Mar del Plata, Province of Buenos Aires.
The victim, who was a student of Agronomy at INTA, located in Balcaro and a branch of the National University of Mar del Plata, had been in an automobile accident when coming from that city to Mar del Plata on August 25, 1974. As a result of that accident, she suffered injury to her spinal column; the attending physician recommended an operation. The operation took place on April 26, 1976. Following hospitalization, which lasted for three months because of an infection, she was given a graft. During this period her condition was serious. Around July of that year she returned home wearing a plaster cast from the waist to below the knee, with the result that except for her arms she was completely immobilized. Such was her condition on the day she was arrested. On at least three occasions earlier, personnel who said they belong to the security forces had come to the victim’s house to interrogate her, which they did with no one else present. Finally, on August 25, five or six civilians came with an ambulance, and took her away on a chair. They told the claimant and her mother that they were taking her to the Naval Base in Mar del Plata. While the victim was hospitalized in the sanatorium, other persons who also said they came from the security forces searched her room without apparently finding anything of interest.
Following the transfer, the complainant went to the Naval Base several times; there he was given evasive answers in the guardroom. On September 10 the complainant received a telephone call from the Base, from a lieutenant judge advocate, who told him that his daughter was being held at the Base at the disposal of the Executive. From then on the complainant frequently went to the Base where he was received by various officers, including the above-mentioned judge advocate and other officers.
In late 1976 the commandants and officers of the Base were changed. From then on the complainant began to be told that Rosa Ana was not at the Base; he was not received by any senior officer, apparently because the previous ones had been changed.
In view of these circumstances, the complainants filed a writ of habeas corpus in February 1977 with the federal Court of Mar del Plata (Judge Ana María Teodori). In connection with that action, which bears the number 768, a communication was received on March 1, 1977 from the Base Commander, which reads as follows: “I am pleased to inform you with respect to your official letter on March 3, 1976, issued in Case Nº 767, entitled ‘Contessi de FRIGERIO, Antonieta s/filing of a writ of habeas corpus in favor FRIGERIO Rosa Ana’, that this person is being held at the disposal of the Executive because she is guilty of involvement in subversive activities.” The communication is dated February 25, 1977.
On March 31, 1977, the complainant received a summons from the Navy telling him that he should appear on the following day by order of the Commander of that unit. On appearing the following day at 9 a.m. the claimant was received by the above-mentioned Commander, who was accompanied by a captain. The Commander told him something along the following lines: “Rosa Ana is (or was) held at the Base and has been killed by her comrades in a confrontation that took place on March 8.”
Since he was not satisfied with the reply, the complainant went to the Civil Registry Office one month later and obtained a death certificate that states that Rosa Ana had died from “cardiac arrest, cardio thoracic traumatism.” That is to say, a cause of death completely different and inconsistent with the cause given by the Commander; this gave rise to other doubts.
On March 31 the above-mentioned officers delivered to the complainant an unsigned paper stating: “Parque Cemetery, Grave 1133 – Temporary Burial Section, sector ‘B’. They told him that the victim was buried at that place. The claimant has endeavored to obtain the exhumation of the body in order to verify the accuracy of what he was told by the above-mentioned officers, but so far has been unsuccessful.
During the above-mentioned interview, the complainants reacted violently, and told the officers they were talking to that they had killed Rosa Ana and the officers did not reply. The captain merely said that the country was at war and the victim “knew people.”
In a note received by the Commission on March 27, 1980 the Argentine Government replied as follows:
In reply to the communication to the Government of Argentina from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, relating to the above-mentioned case, we wish to inform you of the following:
That Rosa Ana FRIGERIO was arrested by legal forces in August 1976; this action and the place of detention was made known to her relatives by official reports provided by the corresponding authorities. The purpose of the arrest was to investigate her possible links with a group of terrorists. Because the person concerned confessed that she was a member of that group but had not committed offenses and also because of her decision to leave it and to collaborate by providing information, the authorities detaining her considered it necessary to protect her and similarly her family by not informing them of her situation because of the possibility that they might be attacked by the terrorist organization to which Rosa A. FRIGERIO had belonged, as a reprisal for her defection.
Accordingly, Rosa Ana was kept in an establishment where she collaborated with the personnel responsible for counter-terrorist activities.
On March 8, 1977, on the basis of information obtained by the authorities a number of visits were made to places which Rosa Ana FRIGERIO and another detainee had stated were hideouts of the terrorist group and places where weapons and explosives were stored. On that occasion, the two detainees accompanied the legal forces and, on arriving a short distance from a house they pointed out in Calle Mario Bravo on the corner of Esteban Echavarría, Mar del Plata, Province of Buenos Aires, they were met with a heavy volley of gunfire from large caliber weapons coming from the interior of the house, which caused the death—in situ—of Rosa Ana FRIGERIO. In the same operation the other detainee died and an officer was seriously wounded. It should be stated that neither of the circumstances were reported at that time through the normal information media because tactical measures of counter information were in force.
Subsequently, the authorities informed the family of Rosa Ana FRIGERIO of what had happened and told them where her body was buried. It should be noted that on April 25, 1979 the Federal Judge of Mar del Plata authorized the family to exhume the body of Rosa Ana FRIGERIO and take it to whatever cemetery they wishes, although so far this transfer has not taken place.
This regrettable episode, which is typical of the unconventional attack to which Argentina has been subject, should be construed within the framework of a struggle which the entire Argentine people as well as its authorities had to wage against the terrorists.
On April 9, 1980, at its 49th session, the Commission studied this case in the light of the information obtained during its on-site observation and of that already in its possession as well as the above-mentioned reply of the Argentine government, and adopted a Resolution the preamble and operative paragraphs of which are as follows:
1. The above-mentioned information shows that Miss Rosa Ana FRIGERIO was detained by legal forces on August 25, 1976 and was so detained when she died on May 8, 1977.
2. The reply of the Government of Argentina does not elucidate the facts reported nor does it deny the allegations made by the claimant.
3. The Government of Argentina has not provided the Commission with any information that enables it to conclude that a legal investigation on the case took place to elucidate the confused circumstances in which Miss Rosa Ana FRIGERIO died.
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
1. To point out to the Government of Argentina that such circumstances constitute very serious violations of the right to life, liberty and the security of the person (Art. I); to the right to a fair trial (Art. XVIII) and to the right of protection from arbitrary arrest (Art. XXV), of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.
2. To recommend to the Government of Argentina: a) that it order a complete and impartial investigation to identify the perpetrators of the acts reported; b) that it punish the persons responsible for those acts in accordance to the laws of Argentina; and c) that it report to the Commission within a period of not more than sixty days on the steps taken to implement the recommendations included in this Resolution.
3. To transmit this Resolution to the Government of Argentina to the claimants.
4. To include this Resolution in the Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, pursuant to Art. 9 (bis), paragraph c, iii, of the Statute of the Commission, although the Commission, in the light of the steps taken by the Government of Argentina, may reconsider the decision adopted.
3. Case 2327 – Eduardo Delmiro RUIVAL and Adriana Claudia de RUIVAL
The Commission adopted Resolution Nº 25 during its 45th session held on November 18, 1978. The pertinent parts of this Resolution are as follows:
In a communication dated June 24, 1977 the following was reported to the Commission:
i. At 3.30 am on February 17, 1977, the residence of the Marandet family was raided by armed individuals who identified themselves as members of the Argentine Army. The daughters of the family, Silvana aged 15 years, Marcela, aged 13 years, Adriana Claudia, aged 19 years, her husband Eduardo Edelmiro Ruival, aged 20 years and the mother of the family, Beatriz Bobes de Marandet, were sleeping. Mr. Marandet was absent because of his work; he is employed by Aerolíneas Argentinas.
ii. On that occasion, for unknown reasons, Eduardo Ruival was killed; he was shot pointblank at the foot of the bed in which he was sleeping; his wife, a witness to the death was then covered up and taken away. They also took the body of Eduardo on a stretcher, according to the testimony of a neighbor, and the daughters and the mother were subsequently released.
iii. The authorities and the courts have been repeatedly approached for news about this event, but at no time has information been given.
iv. On April 21 the family was surprised to receive a summons to Eduardo’s body from the morgue where it remained at the disposal of the First Army Corps.
v. After all the routine formalities had been carried out and the body had been buried, the claimants again insisted on knowing the whereabouts of Adriana, but did not obtain a “reply”.
In its note of September 17, 1977, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of this report to the Government of Argentina, and requested it to supply the corresponding information.
In its note of October 25, 1977 the Government of Argentina replied to the request for information, without referring to the specific facts transmitted and confined itself to the following reply:
(C) Persons concerning which there is no record of detention and who are subject of a police search by the Ministry of the Interior:
(41) MARANDET de RUIVAL, Adriana
The pertinent parts of the reply of the Government of Argentina were transmitted to the claimant who was invited to comment on this reply. In a communication dated June 17, 1978 the claimant informed the Commission of the various steps she had taken, all of which had proved fruitless.
After the expiry of the deadline established in the Resolution, the Government replied to the IACHR in a note dated April 9, 1979, denying responsibility for the facts reported. Referring to the facts that were the subject matter of the report it stated:
One version of the facts is that contained in the chapter “Background” of the Resolution under study; another, which differs from it on important points, is that given by Oscar Ramón MARANDET and Beatriz Elena BOBES de MARANDET to the Argentine Courts.
Indeed, the second paragraph of the report transcribed by the Commission states that “In this operation, for unknown reasons Eduardo RUIVAL was killed; he was shot pointblank while at the foot of the bed on which he was sleeping; his wife, a witness to the death was covered up and taken away, they took away the body of Eduardo on a stretcher, according to the testimony of a neighbor, and the daughters and mother were tied up and hoods placed over their heads.
In contrast, in the writ of habeas corpus filed by the mother of Mrs. Adriana Claudia MARANDET de RUIVAL with the Criminal Division of the federal lower Court, Nº 26—case Nº 13-513 (See Annex 1), she declared that a number of persons in civilian clothes, who did not identify themselves, came to her house carrying weapons and proceeded to lick her in the kitchen, together with her two younger daughters while her other daughter Adriana Claudia MARADET, and her son-in-law, Eduardo Edelmiro RUIVAL were sleeping in another room; that a few minutes later, from the kitchen, she heard four shots and then the intruders left her house taking her daughter and her son-in-law with them.
Thus, according to the report made to the Commission, Mrs. MARANDAT and her two younger daughters were seized—although they were later released—tied up and had hoods put over their heads by the intruders. Whereas, according to the version submitted to an Examining Judge, they remained licked up in the kitchen.
Due consideration must be given to this discrepancy since it implies that important details have been unjustifiably and inexplicably added to or omitted from the events and the description of them. And in view of the seriousness of the events the report must be evaluated with an eye to consistency. Otherwise, they in no way help elucidate the events that are the subject matter of the complaint.
Investigation of the events and its results
a) The above-mentioned Examining Judge’s Court, Nº 26, which received and processed the writ of Habeas Corpus mentioned above, rejected it on the grounds that the beneficiary—Adriana Claudia MARANDET de RUIVAL—was not detained at the disposal of any authority. But, at the same time it reported the alleged illegal deprivation of liberty of which the person named had been a victim.
b) Thereupon, the federal lower Court (Criminal Division) Nº 23, Judge Jorge Manuel LANUSSE, Register Dr. Eduardo MARINA intervened.
This Court has originally taken up the complaint made by the MARANDET family to the Federal Police, Section 40. The complaint and court and police intervention were not recorded in the communication made to the Commission. This shows, together with the above-mentioned contradiction, that the complainants are omitting information from, or adding it to, the reports made to the Commission.
When the Court finally learned that the body of Eduardo Edelmiro RUIVAL had been delivered to his relatives at the Morgue, by order of the Commander of the First Army Corps, on April 21, 1977, the Examining Judge declared itself incompetent and referred the matter to a Special Standing Military Court, Nº 1, pursuant to the provisions of Art. 19 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the provision of Law 21.461 and Decree 2963/76.
c) Finally, the Special Standing Military Court, Nº 1 investigated cases Nº 5N7/5005/4 and Nº 107/1056/237 and gathered information with a view to clearing up the events that have given rise to the Resolution concerned.
d) Although the proceedings have not been completed, it can be stated at this time that there was no “detention” of RUIVAL and MARANDET in the house while they were sleeping, as the report claims, but there was an exchange of shots between them and the Police forces. It is to be assumed that this exchange of shots took place not only within the house on calle Fergamino Nº 397, in the Capital, but also outside the house, since an on duty federal Police officer was wounded nearby.
This is confirmed by the fact that, at the place where Eduardo RUIVAL was shot down, a pistol with three spent cartridges was found in addition to various subversive materials.
In any event, everything would appear to indicate that Adriana Claudia MARANDET de RUIVAL succeeded in escaping in the course of the exchange of shots and has not been heard of since.
During the on-site observation, the Commission investigated the events in the light of the Government’s reply and the evidence received, and found:
a) That the operation in which Mr. Eduardo RUIVAL lost his life and his wife disappeared was indeed carried out by Government forces.
b) According to the testimony received, the exchange of gunfire in which Mr. RUIVAL lost his life took place inside the house and the seizure of his wife took place later.
c) That the body of Mr. RUIVAL was delivered to his relatives by order of the Commander of the First Army Corps.
d) That the results of the cases investigated by the Standing Military Court, Nº 1 for the purpose of ascertaining the facts have not been delivered to the Commission by the Government.
e) After reviewing the request for reconsideration presented by the Government, the Commission decided to reopen its study of the case and requested the Government to provide the findings of the investigation carried out by Special Standing Military Court, Nº 1. The IACHR is awaiting a reply from the Government that will sufficiently clarify the facts reported about the death of Mr. RUIVAL.
4. Case 4364 – Carlos Alberto LUCANTIS
On April 18, 1979 the following report was received:
I am writing to ask you, to help in whatever way you can, in the desperate search for Carlos Alberto LUCANTIS, I.D. 3.810.920, an Argentine national. On May 20, 1977 around 2 o’clock in the morning some 15 armed men entered his house through the windows, shut him up in the room and began a fruitless search for arms; they destroyed most of the things in the house, and took away everything of value. When they had completed the search, they took him away without presenting any kind of credentials; since then all efforts to find him have been in vain.
When verifying the list of the disappeared provided by the Ministry of the Interior, which is referred to in Chapter III, the Commission found that, according to the information from that Ministry, Mr. Lucantis is dead.
Subsequently, in a letter dated October 11, 1977 the Commission received the following information from the claimant:
On September 21, 1979 I was summoned to the Palace of Justice in the Capital, located at Calle Talcahuano 550, Judge Dr. VALDOVINO, Registrar Dr. SAGASTA,
Information read out to me by Dr. SAGASTA:
Carlos Alberto LUCANTIS – ID 3.810.920
Son of: Carlos Lucantis and Ana María Negri de Lucantis
Record card corpse 137.339, roll 214
Died June 6, 1976 – death questionable
Haedo Police Station (Morón 2) investigated it.
This information is questionable since I was not even informed at that time that the body had been identified, not was the body delivered to relatives. I only obtained this news, as I told you earlier, 3 years and 4 months later.
I have submitted in writing a request to the above-mentioned judge asking for more information.
The Commission sent the foregoing information to the Government of Argentina. In a note received by the IACHR on March 27, 1980, the Government replied to the Commission as follows:
According to the statements of his relatives, the person concerned was seized in his residence, in Santiago del Estero 1550, locality of Martínez, Province of Buenos Aires, on May 5, 1976, by a group of unidentified persons.
The various writs of habeas corpus and the requests for information about the person’s whereabouts filed on June 7, 1976 proved fruitless, since it was established that the person concerned had not been detained by the competent authorities.
It was not possible for the Ministry of the Interior to inform the complainant of those steps, since the correspondence sent to Mrs. Ana María Negro de LUCANTIS on March 4, 1977 was returned by the postal service and stated that the addressee had moved.
Accordingly, in 1979, when it was learned from the report by the federal Police that the person concerned had died it was not possible to so inform the family members since their new address was unknown. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that it would have been possible to so inform them, had they come to the offices of the above-mentioned official agencies.
With respect to the information available about the death of LUCANTIS, at present it is only possible to report what is known by the federal Police, according to which his death occurred on June 6, 1976, in questionable circumstances, and outside its area of jurisdiction.
Consequently, efforts are at present being made to collect information on this occurrence in order to ascertain the truth of this information and where appropriate, the pertinent facts.
The Commission is continuing to study this case and is waiting for further investigations to be undertaken, since in its opinion the reply given by the Government does not sufficiently clarify the facts reported about the death of Mr. LUCANTIS.
5. Case 4802 – Mario LERNER
The Commission received this report during its on-site observation; and dealt with it, pursuant to its Regulations, and requested the Government to provide the pertinent information. The report states the following:
On March 17, 1977, at 9.15 p.m. Mario LERNER was murdered on the third floor of his house, and was then thrown down to the first floor by the police. For five days his father tried to have the body returned to him. The raid involved various security forces. The police entered the building on the pretext of looking for a bomb; the bullet that killed his son was fired ten or fifteen minutes after the police entered the building; his son was wearing “Lee” blue jeans and a shirt, was unarmed, and there was no struggle; a neighbor who was an eyewitness said that the policeman who fired at him was young and had a beard. The official police report said that his son was shot outside the house, on the street corner. A number of things were taken and a library of more than three thousand books was destroyed. They did not break down the door to enter, since they entered through the apartment next door by a balcony that links the two apartments. When the owners of the apartment entered, they found two empty bottles on the library table leading one to the conclusion that the police had been drinking.
María del Carmen REYES was in the house of Mr. Mario LERNER. During the raid in which he was murdered, they took her away blindfolded and put her in a police car. At 4 am that morning, at Police Station 10, a police officer told the father of Mr. LERNER that his son was dead and that “the girl had escaped”; they don’t believe this because she was bound and there were 30 or 40 policemen and about 60 soldiers involved.
These events occurred on Thursday night. On Friday Mr. LERNER and his wife went to identify the body of their son and were told that it was being held by the Army; in order to obtain it, they had to bring an official authorization as well as an authorization for burial in the Jewish cemetery; this authorization was obtained on Tuesday of the following week; the body had already decomposed; Mr. LERNER had to sign a document in which he undertook not to remove the body from the country.
The father of Miss REYES filed a writ of habeas corpus; in November of that year, the complete summary proceedings were passed to the military courts and since then there has been no investigation.
In a note received by the Commission on March 27, 1980, the Argentina government replied as follows:
In this regard, we wish to inform you that the authorities have been consulted and state (file 0057/89 or Special Standing Military Court, 1/1) that the events actually occurred as follows: on the South-eastern side of the corner formed by Quintino Bocayuva and Don Bosco streets, in the federal Capital, the police spotted a suspicious looking person (who later turned out to be Mario LERNER) and shouted to him to stop. Instead of obeying, he pulled out a weapon; there was an exchange of shots, as a result of which he was killed at 23.30 hours on March 17, 1977. His body was delivered to the morgue for identification purposes and an autopsy; it was found that he had died from bullet wounds. Subsequently, the body was delivered to the father who had to sign a document stating when and where it would be buried, which contradicts the statement that he was not permitted to take it out of the country. A comparison of the reports and of the actions taken as a result of the event shows that the denunciation is completely false, since it states that the death occurred inside the house, that the body was thrown from the first floor, and that the alleged destruction took place.
This is one of the cases the IACHR investigated during its on-site observation; in its opinion the reply of the Government does not discredit the allegations of the claimant. The Commission continued to study the case and decided to ask the Government for a copy of file 0057/89 of the Special Standing Military Court, 1/1.
C. Deaths in prison attributed to government agents
The Commission has received denunciations and testimony that Government agents killed persons in prisons. The following cases are examples:
1. Case 3364 – Miguel Hugo VACA NARVAJA YOFRE
The Commission had been studying this case under number 1980, concerning the situation of defense lawyers of political prisoners, but due to the receipt of additional information, it decided to consider it as an individual case. The pertinent parts were communicated to the Government in a note dated January 24, 1978:
The original denunciation transmitted to the Government read as follows:
Hugo VACA NARVAJA Jr., a lawyer, has been detained since December 1975 at the disposal of the Executive in the Córdoba prison, without trial. At the time of his arrest, Dr. Vaca Narvaja Jr. was the legal representative of the Partido Auténtico and, like his father, served as defense counsel for political prisoners. In the exercise of a constitutional right, and free of any charge or accusation, he opted to leave the country and to that end under the Government of Isabel Martínez Perón he completed all the necessary formalities for moving to France. During the final period of that Government, on the pretext of regulation, the right of option conferred by Art. 23 of the Constitution was suppressed de facto and Dr. Vaca Narvaja was unable to leave the country before the military coup. After the coup, the right of option was completely suppressed by decision of the Military Junta and, therefore, Dr. Vaca Narvaja was detained in the above-mentioned prison, in the worst possible conditions, together with hundreds of other citizens, both men and women. Finally, on August 12, 1976, Dr. Vaca Narvaja Jr. was brutally murdered by military forces, together with two other young detainees in the same prison, Gustavo Adolfo de Breuil and Alfredo Toranzo; the first was a student leader and the second, a labor leader. In the previous year these two young men had been brought before the federal Judge of Córdoba, and accused of committing specific political offenses which had been perpetrated long before March 24, 1976, the date of the accession to power of the Military Junta. The official communiqué of the Third Army Corps, stationed in Córdoba and having jurisdiction over the center and all the Northwest of Argentina, was signed by General Menéndez, and stated that while these three “subversive criminals” were being transferred from the prison to the Military Commando “to be interrogated by the Military Court”—which is impossible, because when they were detained there were no Military courts and because two of them—de Breuil and Toranzo—were being tried and Vaca Narvaja was only at the disposal of the Executive, there being no penal charge against him—the vehicle in which they were transported was damaged—the steering mechanism broke and a fire started. It was then, according to the military communiqué, that the three “subversive criminals” took refuge behind some bushes, were called upon to stop, and then “finished off”.
Thus, it is not by accident that Dr. Vaca Narvaja Jr. was selected to be a victim of this crime. He was a legal defender of political prisoners and the legal representative of a political party banned by the Military Junta; before the military coup he had been held without trial while his option to leave the country to go to France was being processed; his father was also seized a few days before the coup, and his family, numbering 26 persons in all, including adults and children, had to take refuge in the Embassy of Mexico in Buenos Aires a few days before March 24, 1976.
In a note dated January 24, 1979, the Commission transmitted to the Government additional information provided by the claimant, as follows:
Miguel Hugo VACA NARVAJA YOFRE: Born in the Province of Córdoba, on June 20, 1941, married and father of three children. He was Counselor for the Treasury of the Province of Córdoba, a journalist for Radio Universidad, assistant professor at the University of Córdoba and history teacher at the Colegio Nacional de Montserrat as well as attorney for political prisoners and for the Partido Auténtico in Córdoba.
He was detained by the Córdoba police, brought before the federal Court November 20, 1975, while he was representing the father of a youth by the name of Ciriani, who had died as a result of maltreatment at a police station. Since that day to March 24, 1976, he was never legally charged. Since there was no case or any trial, the option to leave the country was processed and completed; as a result he would be allowed to leave for France.
After the military coup, the prison did not allow political prisoners visits from their relatives, attorneys or priest. On August 12, 1976, the prisoners were still not being allowed to receive visitors when a communiqué published in the newspaper by the Third Army Corps announced the death of Miguel Hugo Vaca Narvaja Yofre, and two other detainees, Toranzo and de Breuil. The communiqué said that as they were being transferred for questioning, they attempted to escape. But it is said that this is not true for the following reasons:
Prisoners who were transferred at the end of September from Córdoba Prison to the Sierra Chica Prison, where visitors were allowed, told their relatives what actually happened: the three young men were taken to the prison yard. Another prisoner was taken with them to witness the shooting of his companions and he was told that when he went back, he was to tell his companions what he had seen and that if they did not behave themselves, the same thing would happen to them.
In a note to the Commission on March 27, 1980, the Argentine Government replied to the IACHR as follows:
Miguel Hugo VACA NARVAJA YOFRE:
In the additional information it is stated that the individual in question was detained on November 20, 1975. Also that he was later transferred to the Sierra Chica Prison and that in the yard of that prison he was shot together with the detainees Toranzo and de Breuil on August 12, 1976.
Although is true that Miguel Hugo VACA NARVAJA YOFRE was detained in the city of Córdoba, on November 20, 1975, and was placed at the disposition of the Executive (“PEN”) by virtue of Decree 3502/75, it is utterly false that the individual in question was shot, as the claimant maliciously alleges. This charge is included for the sole purpose of slandering the Argentine authorities on a point with regard to which there is an official statement, that is, the communiqué issued by the Third Army Corps, published by the newspaper on the day following the occurrence.
In this regard, it is reiterated that the events transpired as properly and officially reported.
When he was moved from the Military Court to the Prison Unit for interrogation, the steering wheel of the vehicle in which he was being moved broke and the vehicle crashed into an embankment.
The detainees used this opportunity to attempt to escape. They were chased by soldiers and told to give up. They did not obey the order and were therefore fired upon. Miguel Hugo VACA NARVAJA, Gustavo Adolfo de Breuil and Higinio Arnoldo Toranzo were killed.
The IACHR also took testimony during the on-site observation. This testimony confirmed that the charge and regulatory procedures in this case are continuing. There should be further investigation to clarify these allegations.
2. Case 2424 – Osvaldo de BENEDETTI
By note of May 30, 1979, the Commission transmitted the following information to the Argentine Government:
Osvaldo E. de Benedetti, according to the files of the OAS Human Rights Commission, was detained at the Rawson Penal Unit in 1978, “was brought down while attempting to escape” on July 21, 1978, in Tucumán. This information came from the Command Unit of the Third Army Corps in Córdoba.
The report furnished to the OAS mentioned the fact that Osvaldo participated in the kidnapping of Mr. Sallustro (in 1972) and he sought amnesty for this crime on May 25, 1973. As a result, it is clear that he has been tried again and sentenced to death for events that had been processed earlier and which had terminated in his liberty.
It is also appropriate to note that Osvaldo had a terrible wound in the center of his chest indicating that—and I am a doctor—it had been inflicted by a large caliber weapon at pointblank range.
In a note to the Commission on March 27, 1980, the Argentine Government reported the following:
In this connection, it is reported that in effect the aforementioned person was shot on the date indicated at 0820 hours, on a path connecting the settlements of Caspichango, Frías Silva and Potrero Negro, south of the city of Tucumán. This occurred during an escape attempt while being taken to locate an assumed clandestine cache of war material.
His corpse was taken to the Tucumán Military Hospital, at the disposition of the federal judge, and left there so that it could be claimed and removed by the family.
As for the move to Unit 6, Rawson, de Benedetti was taken on February 3, 1978 to the Third Army Corps Command Unit located in the city of Córdoba, from which he was taken on May 2, 1978, and placed in Unit 2, Sierra Chica, and once again transferred on June 5, 1978 to the aforementioned Army Corps, which has jurisdiction over the Province of Tucumán, for the purposes mentioned above. This chain of events culminated in his death.
This explanation shows the bad faith motivating the person making the presentation to the Commission. The evidence attempts to make the Armed Forces responsible for the presumed execution of a person who had not been condemned to death, by means of a fact submitted for that purpose.
As for the wound on the corpse, it is obvious that it was made by the bullets from firearms such as those carried by the military patrol that led de Benedetti away; wounds to internal organs were clearly visible.
Furthermore, if there is any doubt about the circumstances surrounding this event, these doubts should be reported to the judicial authorities who can initiate the appropriate investigation to verify any responsibility which may exist in the opinion of the claimant.
The Commission is continuing its consideration of this case and expects to be informed of the investigation. In its opinion, the Government’s reply does not adequately clarify the allegations relating to the death of Mr. De Benedetti.
3. Case 2088B – Mario Abel AMAYA
The Commission adopted Resolution Nº 19 relating to this case on November 18, 1978, at its 45th session. The pertinent information points out the following:
1. A note dated August 4, 1976 and cablegrams of the same date, charged that former deputy Mario Abel Amaya was kidnapped in Buenos Aires.
2. In a cablegram of August 26, 1976, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of this charge to the Government of Argentina and requested it to provide all related information.
3. In a cablegram dated August 31, 1976, the Government of Argentina replied to the request of the Commission and provided the following information:
Following an investigation, on the 30th of this month the competent agencies freed former Senator Solari Irigoyen and former Deputy Amaya, kidnapped by a still unidentified groups.
4. The Commission transmitted to the claimants a note dated September 2, 1976, with the pertinent parts of the information provided by the Government of Argentina and invited claimants to make any observations.
5. In a note dated September 14, 1976, the claimant reported that while former deputy Amaya was still alive, he was detained and placed at the disposition of the Executive (PEN) under the terms of the state of siege, and was being held at facilities of the Fifth Army Corps located in the city of Bahía Blanca, south of the Province of Buenos Aires.
6. In a cablegram dated October 22, 1976, the Government of Argentina reported the following:
“The National Office of the federal Penitentiary Service reported, through its press office that Mario Abel AMAYA, the person detained and placed at the disposition of the Executive had died on October 19, at 10 p.m. in the Central Penitentiary Hospital. The patient had been admitted to the hospital to be treated for chronic asthma and a coronary condition which had been identified five years earlier. Despite the professional clinical care, in view of his condition, and the time of day, he suffered a heart attack which did not respond to first aid and his death was caused by acute cardiac insufficiency brought on by an acute myocardial infarct.”
7. In a note dated October 28, 1976, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of this information to the claimants and requested them to present their observations.
8. During its 39th session, the Commission decided to request the Government of Argentina to provide information concerning the reasons for Mr. Amaya’s detention and why he was not transferred to a general hospital, in lieu of the penitentiary hospital, to receive the medical care that his condition required. This information was requested in a note dated December 6, 1976.
9. In a note dated January 11, 1977, the Government of Argentina replied as follows:
With respect to this matter, I wish to inform that Mr. Mario Abel Amaya was detained for presumed ties with subversive activities. Likewise, I inform you that the penitentiary hospital to which he was admitted has adequate facilities and personnel to provide treatment for conditions such as that suffered by Mr. Amaya. Unfortunately the seriousness of his condition could not be corrected by the efforts of the medical personnel to save his life.
10. On January 14, 1977, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of the foregoing information to the claimants, requesting their observations.
11. In a note dated October 16, 1977, the Commission received a statement made by Mr. Hipólito Solari Irigoyen, who had been detained along with Mr. Mario Abel Amaya. The pertinent part of his statement reads as follows:
Deputy Mario Abel Amaya was also detained on August 17, 1976 in his home at Trelew, the Province of Chubut, and was detained on the same terms as I was until we were transferred on September 11, 1976 in a naval aircraft from Bahía Blanca to the Almirante Zar Naval Air Base at Trelew and from there to the Rawson jail. As a result of the brutal treatment at the base and in the jail, and the lack of medical care during the first few days, Deputy Amaya was transferred in critical condition to the hospital of the Villa Devoto jail, in Buenos Aires, where he died October 19, 1976.
In a note dated February 27, 1979, the Argentine Government replied to the Commission and stated the following regarding the allegations:
Pursuant to the aforementioned resolution, the Government of Argentina was advised that the evidence considered by the Commission on the bases of the charges and information provided by different persons, “constitutes extremely serious violations of the right to life, to liberty and to security and integrity of persons, of the right to a fair trial, and the right to protection against arbitrary detention included in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.”
The Commission also decided to recommend to the Government of Argentina that it undertake a full and impartial investigation to determine who was responsible for the alleged events, and to punish those responsible for those events in accordance with Argentine law and finally, to report on the measures taken.
Following a careful study of the information made available by the Commission, the Argentine Government states:
I. The kidnapping of Dr. Mario Abel AMAYA
Dr. Mario Abel Amaya, former Argentine Congressman, was not “detained” on August 17, 1976 was erroneously reported to the Commission. On that date, according to a statement received from police authorities of the City of Trelew, the aforementioned person disappeared from his domicile and other places he frequented. It was therefore assumed that he had been kidnapped. It was thus reported in the newspaper “La Nación” of August 19, 1976, which is attached as Annex I for further clarification.
In view of the circumstances that on the same date, August 17, 1976, Dr. Hipólito SOLARI IRIGOYEN had been kidnapped in the City of Puerto Madryn, near Trelew, it was decided officially to start a search for both former legislators immediately, as is indicated in the aforementioned newspaper article.
As a result of the police investigation, on August 20, 1976, personnel of the Viedma Office of the Federal Police succeeded in freeing the missing persons. This occurred when both were being taken away, with their hands bound and with hoods over their heads, in a vehicle pursued by the police group that saw them. After a short chase, the vehicle in which the two kidnapped persons were traveling sped up in an attempt to escape and shot at the police personnel. AMAYA and SOLARI IRIGOYEN were thrown out of the car and the criminals fled.
When Dr. AMAYA was taken to police headquarters, he stated that on August 17, 1976, at 3 am, several persons wearing civilian clothing, who said they were “policemen”, requested him to accompany them. He agreed and got into their automobile. Immediately he was told to throw himself to the floor and was blindfolded. He went on to state that after this, he was moved for several days from one place to another, which places he was unable to identify being blindfolded. This continued until he was freed by the police but under the care of medical personnel at the police headquarters. This was his story, as included in the judicial note Nº 622/206/1976 which was processed by the Federal court of the city of Rawson. Its contents can be verified there.
These were the facts as they actually occurred. They have been documented and confirmed by the statements of the person involved.
II. Arrest at the disposition of the Executive (PEN)
Decree Nº 1.878 of September 1, 976, provided for the arrest of Dr. Mario Abel AMAYA and placing him at the disposition of the Executive branch, under the terms of the state of siege, and in accordance with the powers contained in Article 23 of the Constitution.
When arrested, Dr. AMAYA was in the city of Bahía Blanca (Province of Buenos Aires). He was transferred shortly thereafter to Rawson prison (Province of Chubut), where he was admitted on September 11, 1976. He was transferred in an Argentine Navy airplane which left the aforementioned city of the Province of Buenos Aires and landed at the Almirante Zar Naval Air Base at the City of Trelew, several kilometers from the Rawson prison (Unit 6). Dr. AMAYA did not stay at the aforementioned Naval Air Base but merely landed there and was then placed into the vehicle that took him to the prison. The “bad treatment” which—according to the reports of the claimants—he received at the aforementioned Naval Air Base are completely false, since he was not even briefly detained.
III. The health of Dr. AMAYA and his medical care
When Dr. AMAYA arrived at Rawson prison (Unit 6), on September 11, 1976, he was given a medical check-up which is required for new persons admitted. At that time, he stated that he had been suffering since approximately 6 years of age from an asthmatic condition. It was verified at that time that he was actually suffering from bronchial asthma. Because of this, he was given the appropriate medical treatment and therapy.
On September 15, as a result of the medical check-up, it was shown that Dr. AMAYA suffered from an “asthmatic crisis accompanied by arterial hypertension,” which led immediately to his being admitted to the medical care section of that unit.
Because this condition responded only partially during the next few days to the medication and treatment prescribed by the medical service of the prison he was transferred for better medical care to the Central Penitentiary Hospital (located at the Unit 2—Villa Devoto—of the Federal Capital). He entered that hospital facility on September 28, 1976. During the move, all precautions necessitated by the condition of the patient were taken.
This sequence of events is duly documented.
At the Central Penitentiary Hospital, Dr. AMAYA was placed in intensive care, as can be seen from his hospital chart. For the Commission’s records a copy of this chart (original manuscript and typed version) is attached as Annex 3.
IV. Death of Dr. AMAYA
The condition of this person improved considerably but took a turn for the worse on October 19, 1976, when a cardiac arrest resulted in his death.
From this summary of the events, as well as the facts drawn from his clinical history, (attached), it can be deduced that no causal tie existed between Dr. Mario Abel AMAYA’s arrest and either his illness, which dated from his infancy, or his death,--since this occurred as a result of an acute worsening of a pathological condition which he was suffering from when he was arrested.
It cannot be denied that from the time that he was freed from his kidnappers he was placed under medical care.
The influence of the kidnapping—from August 17 to August 30, 1976—and its side effects, in worsening the condition of Dr. AMAYA is something that is completely beyond the responsibility of the Argentine authorities. In effect, that crime came to an end by the action of the Argentine Federal Police and was investigated by the competent magistrate of the Judicial Branch. A warrant for the arrest of the persons responsible for the kidnapping is still in effect.
In summary, Dr. AMAYA was freed from his kidnappers—unidentified criminals—later arrested and placed at the disposition of the Executive, under which circumstances he was given all the care that his preexisting illness made necessary. As a result, it is totally capricious and unacceptable to attribute any responsibility for the death of Dr. AMAYA to the Argentine Government.
In concluding, the Argentine Government requested the Commission to reconsider the resolution it adopted.
The Commission took up the study of the resolution since it considered that the Argentine Government, in its request for reconsideration, provided new information. Despite this information, it decided to maintain the resolution in all its parts since it felt that the information was not persuasive enough to discredit the allegations of the claimant.
4. Furthermore, information in the hands of the Commission which came from several sources, among them persons who have been detained, indicates that many persons died in different detention centers, even during the interrogation, either as a result of illegal physical force or unusual executions.
D. The NN: Unidentified dead
1. The Commission has received information about a considerable number of corpses buried under the designation “NN”, in public cemeteries without any explanation for the lack of identification.
During the visit to the city of La Plata, the Commission inspected the cemetery where it saw a number of unmarked graves with only the letter NN. Some of them had characteristics that indicated they contained newly born children or infants.4
It was later substantiated that in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979, a large number of persons were buried in unmarked graves. At the same time, it was verified that in many of these cases, the diagnosis of the cause of death was a result of “destruction of the brain produced by a firearm projectile.”
In seeking an explanation from the authorities with regard to the procedures used to establish the identity of these persons, the IACHR was told that most of these cases were of men and women killed in confrontations with government forces and that they could not be identified because of the degree of destruction or incineration of their corpses.
In some cases, the bodies were identified by the family members after being exhumed and by using procedures such as the “bottle 24.”5
2. In its examination of corpses buried at the La Plata cemetery, the Commission found that most of the nameless bodies correspond to persons between approximately 20 and 30 years of age, and that in all cases a physician participated in preparing the death certificates. The Commission found in its examination of certain record books for the years 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 the following: in 1976, 36 cases during the months of October through December; in 1977, 35 cases; in 1978, 16 cases; and in 1979, 15 cases.
According to information and testimony available to the Commission, persons belonging to the Armed Forces entered La Plata cemetery, and perhaps others, at night, and personally buried the bodies without permitting the intervention of the cemetery authorities.
3. According to information provided by the Government during its on-site observation, an undetermined number of disappeared persons died as a result of confrontations in the campaign against subversion. According to the charges received by the Commission, official death certificates were not issued in a considerable percentage of these cases. Persons who died in these confrontations were buried in common graves.
In its interviews with the governmental authorities, the Commission requested information on this subject. It did this with the understanding that when deaths occur in confrontations between groups, classified by the government as subversive, and state forces, a detailed report ought to be prepared giving the place, time and circumstances of the hostilities, along with other date on the identity and number of persons killed.
The Minister of the Interior during an interview with the Commission stated that in such cases, a judge participated in the burial of the body, and whether identified or not, an official record is made, and each magistrate court has a record of all cases of this type. Furthermore, the Minister of Interior added that between January, 1976 and July, 1979, he communicated officially to all the provinces on this issue of the unidentified dead known only as NN whose cases were presented by the Commission at some time or another. The purpose of the communication was to obtain the data requested. According to information available at his office, there are approximately 1,554 unidentified dead, that is, those designated as NN.
In its letter of September 20, the Commission asked the Minister of Interior again to provide, in addition to another information, “the number and names of persons who had died in confrontations.” As of the date of the approval of this report, the Commission had not received the reply to that question.
1 Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man stipulates: “Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.”
2 Law Nº 21.264: “Any person who in any way attacks means of transportation, communication media, factories, gas or water supply installations, or other public utilities shall be liable to a specified term of imprisonment or death.”
“Any person who poisons, contaminates, or adulterates water, or food or medicinal products, and thereby endangers the population shall be liable to a specified term of imprisonment or death.”
“Any person who creates a common danger for persons or goods by means of fire, explosion or any other similar means, shall be liable to a specified term of imprisonment or death.” (Arts. 2, 3 and 4 respectively).
Law 21.272: “Any person who commits any violent act against military personnel, the security forces, or national and provincial police and prison personnel, whether or not in the discharge of their duties, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of up to fifteen years. If that violent act results in serious injuries, very serious injuries or death of those personnel, the penalty to be imposed shall be an unspecified term of imprisonment or death.”
“Any person who makes an armed attack on a vessel, aircraft, barracks or military establishment, or on the security forces, national or provincial police or prison personnel or on their vehicles or on their guard posts, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of up to fifteen years. If that armed attack results in serious injuries, very serious injuries to, or the death of, any person, the penalty to be imposed shall be imprisonment for an unspecified term or death.” (Arts. 1 and 2 respectively).
Law 21.338: Amendments to the Penal Code of June 25, 1976: “The Penal Code (Law 11.179) shall be amended as follows: Article 5 shall be replaced by the following:
“5. The penalties set forth in this Code are as follows: death, imprisonment, fine and loss of civil rights.”
“5 bis. The death penalty shall take the form of execution by firing squad and shall be carried out in such place and by such forces as the Executive may designate, within forty-eight hours from the time the final judgment is handed down, save for any delay that judgment may order, for a period not exceeding ten (10) days.” (Article 2).
Article 80 bis designated the persons who shall be liable to the death penalty.
Law 21.634: Art. 225ter. Of the Penal Code, approved by Law 21.338, shall be replaced by the following:
“Art. 225ter. Any person who makes an armed attack on a vessel, aircraft, barracks or military establishment, or on security or police forces, or on prison personnel, or on their vehicles, or their guard posts, or their personnel, shall be liable to a term of five to fifteen years of confinement or imprisonment.
If the armed attack results in the death of, or very serious injuries to, any person, the penalty shall be death or life imprisonment.”
Articles 476 and 529 of the Code of Military Justice stipulate how the death penalty will be carried out.
Article 528 also stipulates that military offenses shall be punishable by penalties applied pursuant to the judgments of Military Tribunals, including the death penalty.
Law 21.461 creates the Special Standing Military Tribunals provided for in Article 483 of the Code of Military Justice and states that persons who commit acts designated criminal and enumerated in this Law, including offenses punishable by the death penalty, shall be tried by these military courts. Article 1 of Decree Nº 2.963, enacted in 1976, provides for the entry into force of this Law from zero hour on November 29, 1976.
Law 21.463 of November 23, 1976. On the basis of the entry into force of Law 21.461 mentioned above, this law repeals Laws 21.264, 21.268 and 21.272. Cases being dealt with under the repealed laws will continue to be handled by the Military Tribunals that have or should have dealt with them in accordance with those legal provisions, until they are disposed of.
3 All the passages indented in this report refer to the pertinent passages of the denunciation submitted by the complainant.
4 The IACHR received information indicating that the Olivos Cemetery also has sections with NN gravestones.
5 This method consists basically of identifying a person by his fingerprints. Under present Argentine law, a corpse, whether or not the person is identified, can be buried only after a death certificate signed by a physician has been issued.