University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Argentina, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.49, Doc. 19 corr.1 (1980).




A. Conclusions

1. In light of the background information and the considerations set forth in the present report, the Commission has reached the conclusion that, due to the actions or the failure to act on the part of the governmental authorities and their agents, numerous serious violations of fundamental human rights, as recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, were committed in the Republic of Argentina during the period covered by this report – 1975 to 1979. In particular, the Commission considers that these violations have affected:

a) the right to life, by virtue of the fact that persons belonging to or connected with government security agencies have killed numerous men and women subsequent to their being placed in detention; the Commission is particularly concerned about the circumstances relating to the thousands of detainees who have disappeared and who, for the reasons set forth in the report, based on the evidence, may be presumed dead;

b) the right to personal freedom, in that numerous persons have been detained and placed at the disposal of the executive (PEN), in an indiscriminate manner and without reasonable cause; who have continued to be held in detention sine die, which in effect is tantamount to their serving an actual sentence; this situation has been aggravated by the severe restrictions and limitations placed on the right of option (to leave the country) provided for in Article 23 of the Constitution, thus undermining the true purpose of this right. Similarly, the prolonged residence in embassies of persons seeking asylum constitutes an infringement on their personal liberty which again is tantamount to their serving an actual sentence;

c) the right to personal integrity and security, by means of the systematic use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the practice of which has taken on alarming characteristics;

d) the right to a fair trial and due process, by virtue of the limitations the Judiciary is encountering in exercising its functions; the lack of proper guarantees in trials before military courts, and the inefficacy that has been demonstrated, in practice and in general, with respect to writs of Habeas Corpus in Argentina, all of which is aggravated by the serious difficulties encountered by defense counsels in their work on behalf of persons in detention, for reasons of security or public order (l’ordre publique), some of whom have died, disappeared or are presently in prison for having taken on defense work of this kind.

2. With regard to other rights established in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the Commission notes that while the failure to observe them does not assume the same gravity of the previous cases, the limitations to which they are subject also affect the total protection of human rights in Argentina. The Commission makes the following observations with respect to these rights:

a) that the complete exercise of the freedom of opinion, expression and information has been limited, in different ways, by the enactment of emergency laws that have contributed to creating a climate of uncertainty and fear among those responsible for the communications media;

b) that labor rights have been affected by the norms which have been decreed in this area and by their application, which has had a particular impact on the right of trade union association, due to military interference, and the promulgation of laws which injure the rights of the working class

c) that political rights are suspended;

d) that, in general, there are no limitations on the freedom of religion and worship; however, the Commission was able to confirm that serious restrictions are placed on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the practice of their religion, and that, while there is no official policy of anti-Semitism, in practice, and in certain cases, there has been discrimination against some Jews.

3. Also, the Commission considers that human rights defense agencies have encountered, and continue to encounter, unjustified obstacles in carrying out their work.

4. The Commission observes that subsequent to its visit to Argentina, in September 1979, violations of the right to life, liberty, personal integrity and security, and of the right to a fair trial and due process have decreased, and that particularly since October 1979, no denunciations have been submitted with respect to further disappearance of persons.

B. Recommendations

By virtue of the conclusions set forth above, the Commission feels that the following recommendations to the Government of Argentina are warranted:

1. With regard to the deaths that have been attributed to the governmental authorities and their agents, to initiate the corresponding investigations, to bring to trial and to punish, with the full force of the law, those responsible for these deaths.

2. As regards the “disappeared”, to implement the preliminary recommendations, made by the Commission to the Argentine Government on September 20, 19791 and, to inform the Commission in detail with respect to the situation of these persons.

3. In order to prevent new cases of disappearance, to create a central register of detainees that will enable their family members and other interested persons rapidly to learn of detentions that have taken place, to order that such detentions be carried out by properly identified agents, and to give instructions that the detainees be transferred without delay to places specifically intended for such purposes.

4. To consider the possibility of lifting the state of siege, in view of the fact that, according to repeated statements made by the Argentine Government, the reasons for which it has imposed no longer exist.

5. As regards detainees at the disposal of the Executive (PEN) and the right of option to leave the country, that the following measures be adopted:

a) That the power granted to the Head of State pursuant to Article 23 of the Constitution, which authorizes the detention of persons during a state of siege, be made subject to a test of reasonable cause, and that such detentions not be extended indefinitely;

b) That the following persons, detained at the disposal of the Executive (PEN), be released:

i. Persons who have been detained without reasonable cause or for a prolonged period of time;

ii. Persons who have been acquitted or who have already completed their sentences;

iii. Persons who are eligible for parole.

c) That the exercise of the right of option to leave the country be completely restored, so that the processing of applications not be delayed in any way that might hinder the actual exercise of this right.

6. To conduct an in-depth investigation of the denunciations concerning the use of torture and other unlawful forms of coercion, and to punish with the full force of the law those responsible for such acts.

7. To instruct all the officials and agents responsible for the maintenance of public order, the security of the state, and the custody of detainees, with respect to the rights of detainees, particularly as regards the prohibition of all cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and to inform them of the sanctions to which they become liable in the event that they violate these rights.

8. To provide humanitarian treatment to those detained for reasons of security or public order, which treatment should in no case be inferior to that given to common prisoners, bearing in mind in both cases the internationally accepted Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

9. To take the following steps with regard to due process guarantees and legal defense:

a) To assure legal due process guarantees to persons who are brought to trial before military courts, especially the right to a defense by an attorney of the defendant’s choosing.

b) To appoint a Commission of qualified jurists to study the trials conducted by military tribunals during the state of siege, and to make pertinent recommendations in those cases where due process guarantees were lacking.

c) To guarantee and facilitate an effective judicial investigation of the cases of persons detained under the security laws.

d) To facilitate the provision of an effective defense by attorneys providing legal services to defendants.

10. To cooperate fully with the Judiciary to ensure the effectiveness of the writs of Habeas Corpus and Amparo.

11. As regards the right of opinion, expression and information, to repeal or, where appropriate, to amend, those laws, such as Law 20.840 and others, that limit the exercise of this right.

12. As regards labor rights, to take the necessary measures to ensure their actual observance, and as regards the right of trade union association, to guarantee the rights of workers’ organizations, repealing, or, where appropriate, amending, laws that prevent their normal development.

13. As regards political rights, to take such steps as are necessary to restore the activity and participation of political parties in the public life of the nation, as well as to guarantee the political rights of citizens.

14. As regards the right of freedom of religion and of worship, to repeal Decree Nº 1867 of August 31, 1976, which prohibits Jehovah’s Witnesses from conducting any kind of activity, and to investigate and punish any discrimination against Jews.

15. As regards human rights defense agencies, to facilitate their contribution to the promotion and observance of human rights in Argentina.



1 See pages 7, 8 and 9.


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