1. In recent years, both before and after the March 1976 military takeover, the IACHR has received denunciations of serious violations of human rights in Argentina, which it has processed according to its regulations. In addition on a number of occasions, it has informed representatives of the Argentine Government of its concern about the increase in the number of denunciations, and about information received from various sources that comprises a pattern of serious, generalized and systematic violations of basic human rights and freedoms.
2. In light of this situation, the IACHR decided to prepare the present report, and when it informed the Argentine Government of this decision, the Commission also advised it of its interest in conducting an on-site observation in Argentina, in the belief that this is the most suitable method of determining precisely and objectively the status of human rights in a particular country at a particular time in history.
3. In a Note dated December 18, 1978, the Argentine Government extended an invitation to the IACHR to conduct an on-site observation, pursuant to its regulations, scheduled, by mutual agreement, for May 1979. However, because of the changes that occurred in the IACHR as a result of the entry into force of the American Convention on Human Rights, it became necessary to postpone the visit, which finally took place from September 6 through 20, 1979.
B. Activities of the Commission during its on-site observation
1. A Special Commission was formed pursuant to the pertinent Regulation,1 and was charged with conducting the on-site observation in Argentina. The Commission consisted of the following members of the Commission: Dr. Andrés Aguilar, Chairman; Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro, First Vice Chairman; Dr. Gerardo Monroy Cabra; Professor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches; Professor Tom J. Farer, and Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo.
The following technical staff of the Executive Secretariat accompanied the Special Commission: Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Commission; Dr. Edgardo Paz Barnica; Dr. Guillermo Fernández de Soto; Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark and Dr Robert Norris.
The following administrative staff of the Executive Secretariat worked during the visit to Argentina: Mrs. Hildi Wicker, Mrs. Elia Dodd, Mrs. Yoly Toro, Mrs. Elsa Ergueta, Mrs. Vickie Pitts and Miss Gabriela Restrepo; Mr. George Lawton and Mrs. Eva Desrossier served as interpreters.
2. The on-site observation began on September 6, and was completed on September 20, 1979. The Commission’s first step upon arrival in Buenos Aires was to issue a press release.2
3. The Special Commission set up its offices in the National Office of the Organization of American States in Argentina, located in Buenos Aires, Avenida de Mayo 760. It enjoyed the full cooperation of the entire staff of the office, under the Director, Mr. Roberto Monti. The Commission’s activities were conducted as follows, in accordance with the previously approved work schedule:
a. Interviews with public authorities
From September 7 through September 20, the Commission met with the President of Argentina, Lieutenant General (Retired) Jorge Rafael Videla; the Military Government Junta, whose members are Lt. Gen. Roberto E. Viola, Brigadier General Omar D. Graffigna and Admiral Armando Lambuschini. The Commission also met with the Minister of the Interior, General Albano Harguindeguy; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brigadier (Retired) Carlos Washington Pastor; the Minister of Justice, Dr. Alberto Rodríguez Varela, and the Minister of Culture and Education, Dr. Juan Rafael Llerena Amadeo.
The Commission also met with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Dr. Adolfo Gabrielli, the members of the Federal Chamber of Appeals, presided over by Dr. Raúl Rodríguez Araya, and Federal Judge Dr. Martín Anzoátegui.
During its visit to the city of Córdoba, the Commission met with the Governor of Córdoba, General (Retired) Adolfo Sigwald, the Commandant of the Third Army Corps, General Luciano Benjamín Meléndez, and the Rector of the National University of Córdoba, Dr. Francisco Quintana Ferreira.
In the city of Rosario, the Commission met with the Commandant of the Second Army Corps, General Adolfo Jáuregui, with the Chief of Regional Unit II of the Provincial Police, Lt. Col. Horacio Beradguer, and with Federal Judge Dr. Rafael Carrillo Avila.
It also met with the Chief of the Federal Police, General Juan Bautista Sasiaiñ; the Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Colonel Jorge A. Dotti, and with the Chief of Police of the Province of Buenos Aires, General Ovidio P. Ricchieri. Interviews were also conducted with the director of the prisons visited by the Commission.
The members of the Commission explained the objectives of the mission to all these officials, and received offers of full cooperation from the authorities.
b. Former Presidents of the Republic
The Commission felt it advisable to visit all the former presidents of Argentina to discuss the status of human rights in the country. Beginning on Saturday, September 8, the Commission met with Dr. Arturo Frondizi, Lieutenant General (Retired) Roberto M. Levingston; Lieutenant General (Retired) Alejandro Agustín Lanusse, Dr. Héctor J. Cámpora, in asylum in the Embassy of Mexico, and Mrs. Isabel Martínez de Perón, under house arrest in a farm located in San Vicente, Province of Buenos Aires.
Former President Arturo Illía was out of the country and Lieutenant General (Retired) Juan Carlos Onganía excused himself from receiving the Commission.
c. Interviews with major religious figures
On Wednesday, September 12, the IACHR visited the Cardinal Primate of Argentina, Archbishop of Córdoba and President of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, at the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference. He stated his views with regard to the situation of human rights in Argentina, and exchanged opinions with the members of the IACHR.
The Commission also had the opportunity to talk with representatives of various religious groups.
d. Human rights organizations
In the afternoon of Friday, September 7, the Commission held separate meetings with Argentine human rights organizations, including: the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; the Argentine League for Human Rights; the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights; the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and the leaders of the group called Families of “the Disappeared” and Persons detained for Political Reasons (Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas).
In the days following, the Commission received other groups and delegations from a number of cities in the interior of the country, who had traveled to meet it. These included: the Families of “The Disappeared” from the cities of Mendoza, Rosario and La Plata; the Society of Grandmothers of Disappeared Children; Families of Disappeared Minors; Families of Disappeared and Detained Journalists; Families; Families of Disappeared Conscripts; Families of Disappeared Uruguayans and Chileans, and the Youth Delegation of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.
e. Representatives of political organizations
The Commission held meetings with representatives of the following political organizations:3 The Unión Cívica Radical del Pueblo, Drs. Ricardo Balbín and Raúl Alfonsín; the Partido Justicialista, Mr. Deolindo Bittel; the Confederación Socialista, Mr. Boris Passik; the Partido Intransigente, Messrs. Rafael Marino and May Zubiría; the Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores, Mr. Enrique Germán Broquen; the Partido Comunista, Mr. Fernando Nadra; the Federación Demócrata Cristiana, Messrs. Enrique de Vedia and Francisco Cerro; the Partido Federalista Argentino, Mr. Francisco Manrique; the Partido Socialista Popular, Mr. Víctor García Costa, and the Partido Socialista Unificado, Mr. Simón Alberto Lázara.
Other political groups, such as the “Committee for the Political Defense of Mrs. Perón”, and the Multipartidaria Juvenil, also met with the Commission.
f. Professional associations
The Commission exchanged views with the Argentine Federation of Bar Associations, and with the Buenos Aires Bar Association. These institutions received the Commission in their headquarters on September 8 and September 13, respectively.-
The Commission discussed a number of aspects of the legal profession during a visit at its offices from a group of defense lawyers and trade union lawyers.
Meetings were also held with the Central Association of Architects; the Medical Confederation; the Circle of Engineers; the Association of Psychiatrists of the Federal Capital; a group of doctors who had been laid off, the Association of Psychologists of Buenos Aires, and the Psychology Commission for Human Rights.
g. Trade-union organizations and syndicates
The Commission met with the Confederations of Education Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación), and a delegation from the Light and Power Union (Sindicato de Luz y Fuerza).
The Commission received the leaders of the Conducción Única de Trabajadores Argentinos, “CUTA”, an organization that came into being as a result of the merger that occurred at the same time as the Commission’s visit, between the Gremio de los 25 and the Comisión Nacional de Trabajadores, “CNT”. The first public act of the new trade union organization was its visit to the IACHR.
h. Commercial, industrial and business entities
The Commission met with representatives of the following organizations: Comptroller of the Industrial Union; the Rural Society of Argentina; the Junior Chamber of Buenos Aires; the Association of Pulp and Paper Manufacturers; the Argentine Chamber of Commerce; the Federation of Textile Industries of Argentina; the Coordinator of Food Products; the Chamber of Chemical Industries; the Industrial Union of Buenos Aires; the Chamber of Exporters of the Republic of Argentina; the Argentine Commercial Union; the Association of Banks “ADEBA”, and the Argentinean Industrial Movement.
i. Other meetings held
There were also meetings with the Piñero Pacheco Foundation; the University Federation; the Argentine Technological University Federation; the Argentine Israel Associations, DAIA, and the Union of Women of Argentina.
In addition, the Commission met with a number of other individuals whose testimony it was particularly interested in hearing. These included meetings with the author Ernesto Sábato; the trade union leader Lorenzo Miguel; the journalist Jacobo Timerman, and the trade union leader Professor Alfredo Bravo.
Lastly, on Tuesday September 18, the Commission met with the director or representatives of the mass communications media to discuss the topic of freedom of the press.
j. Investigation of certain cases
In the cities of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, La Plata and Rosario, the Commission did some investigative work inherent in the on-site observation, and received individuals and groups interested in stating problems or filing denunciations about human rights violations.
k. Detention centers
The Commission visited the prisons of Villa Devoto; Caseros; Resistencia; Rawson; Unit 9 in La Plata; Olmos and the military detention centers called Magdalena, near La Plata and La Rivera in Córdoba. It also visited the prison in Córdoba and Unit 21 known as the Resocialization Institute (Instituto de Resocialización). The Commission also visited the Superintendent of Federal Security or Federal Coordination, the Naval School of Mechanics and Police Station Nº 9 in Buenos Aires.
l. Denunciations received
In its initial press release, the Commission invited all persons who considered that any of their rights, as defined in the American Declaration, had been violated, to submit the corresponding denunciation.
Members of the public were received in Buenos Aires (in the offices on Avenida de Mayo 760) from Friday, September 7, to Saturday, September 15. In Córdoba, denunciations were received in the Hotel Crillón from September 10 through September 14, and in the city of Tucumán, in the Hotel Versailles, on April 14 and 15.
The total number of denunciations received was 5,580, of which 4,153 are new and are currently being processed pursuant to the Commission’s Regulations; 1,261 communications referred to cases already opened and in process, and 166 dealt with questions that bore no relation to violations of human rights.
All persons who wished to file a denunciation were duly received.
4. The Argentine Government cooperated with the Commission at all times, provided it with all the facilities it needed for its work, and repeated its commitment to take no reprisals against persons or institutions who provided the Commission with information, testimony, or evidence of whatever nature.
The Commission would also like to record its thanks for the cooperation it received from the communications media, the various institutions representing the Argentine community, and in general, from the people of Argentina.
5. On Thursday, September 20, the full Commission met for the second and last time with the President, Lieutenant General (Retired) Jorge Rafael Videla, who was accompanied by the Ministers of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs. In light of its importance, the Commission at that time delivered to the President a document containing preliminary recommendations, the text of which appears below:
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO THE GOVERNMENT OF ARGENTINA
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on the occasion of its on-site observation to the Republic of Argentina, takes the liberty of making the following preliminary recommendations to the Government of Argentina:
I. The Disappeared:
The Commission believes that the problem of the disappeared is one of the most serious human rights problems that Argentina faces. The Commission thus recommends the following:
a) That detailed information be provided on the status of the disappeared persons, understood to mean those persons who have been apprehended in operations in which, because of the conditions in which they took place and because of their characteristics, it is presumed that the state authorities participated.
b) That the necessary instructions be given to the proper authorities that minors who have disappeared as a result of the detention of their parents and other relatives, and children born in detention centers, whose whereabouts are unknown, be handed over to their natural parents or other close family members.
c) That the relevant measures be adopted to discontinue the procedures that have led to the disappearance of persons. In this regard, the Commission notes that cases of this nature have occurred recently, and should be clarified as soon as possible, as should all the other cases.
II. Persons detained under orders of the Executive (“PEN”), and the right to exercise one’s option to leave the country:
The Commission learned of the status of persons detained under orders of the Executive, and of the procedures for exercising the right of option to leave the country. The Commission recommends the following in this regard:
a) That the power granted to the Head of State under 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, as a result, the following persons, detained at the disposal of the Executive (PEN) be released:
i. Those who have been detained without reasonable cause for a prolonged period, in order that the preventive detention itself not become the punishment, which may only be imposed by the Judiciary;
ii. Those who have been acquitted or who have already completed their sentences;
iii. Those who are eligible for parole, provided they have been sentenced.
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.
III. Methods of Investigation:
The Commission recommends the following with regard to methods of investigation:
That there be an in-depth investigation of denunciations concerning the use of torture and other illegal uses of force in the interrogation procedures used on detainees, that those responsible for such acts be punished with the full force of the law, and that the necessary measures be taken to prevent the use of such measures.
IV. Prison System:
The Commission recommends the following with respect to the prison system:
That the relevant measures be taken to ensure that detainees in some penitentiaries no longer be deprived of the conditions for their physical and mental health, such as sunlight, reading and physical exercise, that excessive time spent in cells be reduced, and that punishment not be imposed for trivial infractions.
V. Military Jurisdiction:
The Commission recommends the following with respect to persons who are in the process of being tried and sentenced by military tribunals:
a) That persons brought to trial before military tribunals be assured of due process guarantees particularly the right to a defense by an attorney of the defendant’s choosing.
b) That a Commission of qualified jurists be appointed to study the trials conducted by military tribunals during the state of siege, and which would be authorized to make pertinent recommendations in those cases where due process guarantees were lacking.
VI. Guarantees of due process and fair trials:
The Commission recommends the following with regard to the due process guarantees and fair trials:
a) That guarantees and facilities be provided to judges so that they may effectively investigate cases of persons detained under the security laws.
b) That the guarantees essential for an effective defense by attorneys providing legal services to defendants be granted.
Buenos Aires, Capital Federal
September 20, 1979
6. On September 20, the Commission concluded its on-site observation in Argentina and issued its final press release.4
1. In preparing this report, the IACHR used information obtained through its own resources, both before, during and after the on-site observation. Special consideration was given to denunciations, testimonies and information received by the IACHR or by the Special Commission that visited Argentina, which were used in preparing the present document, although the report is not merely an aggregate of these denunciations, testimonies and information.
2. Careful study also was given to the Argentine legal system, the body of laws handed down by domestic courts and the applicable international human rights instruments. The IACHR consulted various documents that directly or indirectly deal with the status of human rights in Argentina or in some way enable the Commission to increase its understanding of the recent history of that country, which included documents prepared by the Argentine Government and by various Argentine organizations.
2. The IACHR also wishes to record that during its on-site observation, in addition to the information provided by governmental authorities, it received information and heard from officials of institutions representing all sectors of Argentine society, and also heard from all the individuals who wishes to submit complaints or testimony on the Argentine human rights situation.
3. The present report takes into consideration the Argentine Government’s observations dated February 29, 1980, on the preliminary report, which had been approved by the Commission, and delivered to the Argentine Government, on December 14, 1979.
The Commission considers it appropriate to make some general comments about those observations, particularly in relation to the individual case histories included in the present report.
In the judgment of the Commission, these case histories are used to illustrate various topics and situations discussed in the report, and an attempt was made to use them in order to present with greater objectivity the situation of human rights in Argentina.
The Commission wishes to point out that its presentation of these case histories does not necessarily entail any prejudgment of them, in those instances where the Commission has not yet taken a resolution. Each individual case mentioned in the present report has been or will be processed according to the Commission’s Regulations. The end of the process in each case is a statement or resolution on the merits.5
The IACHR has already adopted a resolution on some individual cases included in the present report. In cases where the Argentine Government has requested a reconsideration, careful study has been made of the cases in the light of new information supplied by the Government; if they are still included, it is because, in the opinion of the Commission, reconsideration of the case was not justified.
In cases where the Commission has decided to include a denunciation which has not yet been completely processed, it is because the Commission has decided, on the basis of the available evidence, that the charges are prima facie true, particularly in cases where the observations of the Argentine Government do not permit the denunciation to be refuted.
Moreover, the report contains not only individual cases, but also refers to information and documents received during the on/site observation, which was conducted precisely in order to collect such information.
With respect to the information collected during the on-site observation, the IACHR considered that the proper procedural moment to make it known to the Government, was, of course, in the preliminary report itself; this gave the Government the opportunity to make whatever observations it considered appropriate.
It should also be noted that in each of the case histories recorded—which are identified in this report by number—the IACHR informed the Argentine Government of the case prior to the Commission’s approval of the report, and that in each case, the Government has had an opportunity to make such comments and observations as it considered appropriate.
4. Finally, the Commission wishes to note that in transcribing the pertinent parts of the denunciations contained in the report, it was decided to omit the names of those public officials or security agents who were accused of human rights violations, in cases where the Commission had no direct information. However, the Commission is confident that such an omission will not prevent the Argentine Government from taking the necessary measures, in accordance with its domestic laws, to investigate these denunciations, and in the event abuses or crimes are proven, to punish those responsible with the full force of the law.
1 Article 1 of the Regulations regarding on-site observations.
2 The first press release read as follows: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today began its work in Argentina: present were the Chairman, Dr. Andrés Aguilar, and Drs. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro, Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches, Tom Farer, Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra and Francisco Bertrand Galindo, members of the Commission. Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Commission is serving as Secretary, with the assistance of the professional, technical and administrative personnel of the Commission. The purpose of the visit is to conduct an observation of the human rights situation, to receive denunciations of violations of human rights, and to study and examine the situation in order to prepare a report on observance of human rights in Argentina in conformity with the regulations governing the work of the Commission. During its stay in Argentina, the Commission will conduct interviews and hold hearings with authorities, organizations and individuals representing the various sectors of Argentine society, including representatives of the political world, the professions, religion, business, organized and unorganized labor, students, humanitarian organizations, and the mass media. The Government of Argentina invited the Commission to undertake this visit, and has given it broad assurances that it will enjoy unrestricted freedom to visit detention centers or places of detention, in order to interview all persons and visit all institutions that the Commission considers necessary. It has also assured the Commission that those persons and institutions that wish to communicate with the Commission can do so without hindrance of any kind, and that no reprisals will be taken against them. The Commission will work according to the schedule prepared for it, in the capital Buenos Aires, and in other places throughout the country, including Córdoba, Tucumán, La Plata, Trelew and Resistencia. In all these places, the Commission will be available to individuals and groups, as appropriate, who wish to state their problems and file denunciations regarding human rights, for processing according to the Regulations. The Commission hopes that during its stay in Argentina, it will receive the cooperation of individuals who believe they have suffered violations of human rights, and of representatives of organizations throughout Argentina, and that they will help toward a greater understanding of the actual human rights situation. The Commission will have its offices in the following places: 1. Buenos Aires, Federal Capital: Avenida de Mayo 760 – from September 7 to 15. 2. Córdoba: Hotel Crillón – September 10 to 14. 3. Tucumán: Hotel Versailles – September 15 to 15. Buenos Aires, Federal Capital, September 6, 1979.
3 The majority of the political organizations were represented by a number of delegates. We mention only some of them in the present report.
4 The Commission’s final press release reads as follows: Today marked the completion of the on-site observation regarding the status of human rights in Argentina, which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been conducting since September 6 at the invitation of the Government. During its stay in Argentina, the Commission met with the President, members of the military Junta, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Ministers of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Culture and Education, and with other civil and military authorities, both national and provincial. The Commission also had the opportunity to meet with former Presidents of the Republic, the President of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, and representatives of various political, religious, cultural, human rights, media, professional, scientific, business, trade union and student organizations. From all these sources it received important testimony on the status of human rights in Argentina. The Commission also visited the Caseros and Villa Devoto penitentiaries in Buenos Aires, Resistencia and Rawson, and the military detention centers of La Rivera in Córdoba, and Magdalena in the Province of Buenos Aires. Also in Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Tucumán, the Commission received denunciations of alleged violations of human rights. These denunciations will be processed according to the Statute and the Regulations of the Commission. The Argentine Government has pledged to the Commission that it will take no reprisals of any kind against persons who filed denunciations with the Commission, nor against groups and organizations which provided information or testimony. In Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario and La Plata, the Commission attempted to clarify certain events denounced to it. The Commission cannot advance any opinion as to the situation of human rights in Argentina. It will meet at its headquarters in Washington during the month of November, and will undertake consideration of the valuable information collected during its on-site observation, the documents and information it has requested from the Government (which the Government has undertaken to provide shortly), and the other sources, available to it. It will then prepare its report, which will be transmitted to the Government for its observations. Once if has examined these observations, the Commission will transmit its report to the OAS which will make it public. The foregoing notwithstanding, due to the urgency and importance of the matter, the Commission has today delivered a document to the President containing preliminary recommendations on those questions that require prompt attention. The Commission wishes to acknowledge the facilities provided by the Government enabling the Commission to carry out its mission, and to thank the authorities, the communications media, the various institutions representing the Argentina community, and in general, the people of Argentina, for their cooperation.
September 20, 1979
5 When the IACHR receives a denunciation that meets the requirements set forth in the Regulations (i.e., it is a signed communication bearing a return address that alleges a violation, by a member government of the OAS, of one of the rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man), the Commission transmits the pertinent parts of the communication to the Government so accused, omitting the name of the claimant. The Government then has 180 days to present its observations to the Commission. This information in turn is forwarded to the claimant so that he may reply to the Government’s response. When this phase of the process has been completed, the IACHR takes a final decision on the case, which may result in its adopting a resolution that presumes the event denounced to have been proven.