STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE AGENCIES
1. The operation and activities of human rights defense agencies in Argentina have been hampered and threatened by the Government through various measures to impede the full realization of their objectives.
This attitude of the Argentine Government has resulted in violations of a number of human rights set forth in the Constitution, and is contrary to the obligation to promote observance and respect for rights inherent to human dignity, as set forth in various international instruments, among them those governing the inter-American system.
2. The difficulties referred to were most evident in the property seizures of, and raids on, the agencies mentioned, which were carried out shortly before the Commission’s on-site observation in Argentina. The agencies involved are the following: the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, which was established in 1976, before the military takeover, with a multilateral membership that has resulted in coordinated and common action on behalf of justice, peace and human rights; the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights, which is composed of duly accredited representatives of various religious denominations, working together to defend human rights; the Argentine League for the Rights of Man, which has been in existence for over 40 years in Argentina, and is devoted to the defense of an respect for human rights, and the Committee of the Families of Persons Who Have Disappeared or have been Detained for Political Reasons.
1. In July and August of 1979, property was seized and raids were conducted on locals of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, the Argentine League for the Rights of Man, and the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights. These actions violated constitutional guarantees with respect to property, freedom of speech, inviolability of domicile and private documents, which are all the more unfortunate because they affect the operation of agencies devoted to promoting observance of and respect for human rights in Argentina.
Before and during its on-site observation, the Commission received extensive information and testimony on this case and obtained opinions from the directors of the agencies affected, various sectors of Argentine society, and various government officials.
2. On Saturday, July 28, 1979, police and civil authorities, in an operation that lasted 3 hours, entered the print shop of Alemann & Cía. And seized nearly 4,000 copies of the pamphlet entitled “Where are they? 5,581 disappeared persons,” which was being published by the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights. It had been prepared by that agency in cooperation with the Argentine League for the Rights of Man, the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights and the Committee of Families of Persons who have Disappeared or have been Detained for Political Reasons. The mats and originals of the pamphlet were also seized.
The publication of this document, containing a list of the above-mentioned number of persons who have disappeared in Argentina, had been decided upon after efforts to publish it in newspapers of the Capital in paid ads had failed. Copies of the list had been transmitted to the President, the members of the Military Junta, the Ministry of the Interior, the Argentine Episcopal Conference and other groups with collective representation.
The human rights agencies mentioned decided to hire, for 6 million new pesos paid in advance, the services of a printing company located on Tucumán street in the Capital, which published the German language newspaper Argentinisches Tageblatt. One of the paper’s co-owners is Juan Alemann, who holds the post of Secretary of the Treasury in the Government.
The seizures were carried out under Decree Nº 1829/79, signed the previous day, July 27, by the President and by the Minister of the Interior. Article 1 of the decree provides that the distribution, sale, circulation and partial or total reproduction by any means throughout the national territory, of the publication referred to, is prohibited; copies of said publication are ordered impounded; and the federal Police are instructed to carry out the above immediately.1
In light of the raid that was carried out, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights initiated a number of legal actions, including filing a writ of Amparo with the federal Court of District Nº 2, charging that Decree 1829 violated a number of constitutional provisions, and requesting return of the seized property, a declaration of the legitimacy, and constitutional protection, of the seized publication, and an assessment of costs against the Government of Argentina for the action taken.2
3. On Friday, August 10, 1979, the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights and the Argentine League for Human Rights were raided. On August 14, another raid took place against both agencies as well as the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights, a few weeks after the Commission’s on-site observation in Argentina began.
The raid was ordered by the judge of the lower Court on National Criminal Matters and Federal Correctional Matters, Dr. Martín Anzoátegui, under the proceedings ordered in case 12.102 referring to “abetting false testimony.”
Miss Mónica Córdoba, a voluntary assistant of the Committee of the Families of Persons who have Disappeared or been Detained for Political Reasons, and the fiancée of one of the persons who disappeared, was detained for several hours of interrogation and was released for lack of evidence.
The Committee was operating temporarily at the premises of one of the agencies raided. The raid resulted in the seizure of documents and various kinds of material relating to human rights in Argentina, and was conducted on the basis of an order for such action issued by Judge Anzoátegui. Police forces were deployed and the court secretary was present, to dismantle the offices and temporarily close the premises.3
This investigation had its origin in the writ of Habeas Corpus filed with Judge Anzoátegui by Mrs. Dorila Marzan de Galizzi, a domestic, of limited financial means, whose daughter disappeared in 1976. In filing the writ of Habeas Corpus, Mrs. Galizzi was assisted by Miss Mónica Córdoba in the offices of one of the human rights agencies that was raided. See took the text of the writ from a model drawn up by the lawyers of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, which assist in such cases.
This fact caused Judge Anzoátegui to contend that the complainant had been induced to provide false information and initiated the legal action on that basis. The agencies that had been raided filed writs with the competent judge requesting return of the property and documents seized.4
1. During the on-site observation, the problem was dealt with fully in hearings of the Commission with the agencies involved in promoting human rights in Argentina, since this constitutes, in addition to a violation of the rights and guarantees set forth in the Constitution, a serious obstacle to the work carried out by such agencies on behalf of human rights.
In the hearings, the agencies showed the Commission that the seizure of documents and lists of denunciations and the raids, on the eve of the Commission’s visit, changed any tendency to improve the situation, and that the publication of the pamphlet containing the list was caused by the refusal of the printed media to publish it in the manner requested. They also stated that the court proceedings included a summons that identified the domicile at 760 Avenida de Mayo, without realizing that this is the address of the OAS offices in Buenos Aires, where the Commission would operate offices during its stay in Argentina and this if the judge in this case or any other judge in the country would demonstrate that same judicial zeal in investigating disappearances, tortures, detentions, and the illegal deprivations of freedom that continue to be denounced, he would be supported by the agencies promoting human rights.
2. With the interest merited by the case, the Commission expressed its concern to the President and other high officials of the military government, at the actions taken against these human rights organizations.
In the interview given to the Commission by the Chief of Police of the Province of Buenos Aires, that official showed the Commission the documents seized from these human rights agencies, which had been transmitted to him by the judge in the case.
1. In order to consider the situation created by the seizures and raids, and to take objective cognizance of this case, the Commission interviewed federal Judge Martín Anzoátegui, who ordered the proceedings. Judge Anzoátegui, responding to the Commission’s question, said the following, inter alia:
a) Federal Courts receive writs of Habeas Corpus, which are handled until the procedures within the system are completed. On approving the writ of Habeas Corpus, which gave rise to the court actions indicated, it was noted that in the writs filed, the charges had similar characteristics. One woman, whose daughter was listed as disappeared, told the court that she had been assisted by one of the human rights agencies. This obstructs justice and causes judicial waste;
b) In response to this testimony, as sitting judge he ordered an investigation. The investigation charged the crime of abetting false testimony, because the woman mentioned—Marzán de Galizzi—submitted printed documents that obstructed justice and gave the addresses of those who helped her to pressure national authorities and to impress international organizations;
c) As a result of the foregoing, the raid and the seizures of property were ordered. The material seized shows the existence of a systematic organization of alleged facts that are not true and that are not recognized as real. The seized documents are being analyzed and classified;
d) With respect to the Commission’s observation that such documents had been shown to it by the Chief of Police of the Buenos Aires Province, Judge Anzoátegui said that in order to analyze and classify them, they had been sent to specialized and technical agencies, including the federal Police because the courts may request studies of this kind from technical, intelligence, administrative and other agencies, that aid in establishing the truth in an investigation;
e) His court was going to investigate everything that “smelled of crime.” A certain number of persons listed as disappeared had been determined to be abroad or detained. The possibility of judicial fraud and deception of justice was being investigated. If the writs of Habeas Corpus are analyzed, they all say the same thing, but not all of them are confirmed when they endeavor to establish the necessary requirements;
f) It was not his intent to impound the material for an indefinite period of time. The alleged disappearance indicated in the writs of Habeas Corpus were being investigated;
g) The woman claimant comes from an office where she was given the procedure to follow and was assisted in preparing the writ of Habeas Corpus on the basis of a printed form. To clarify these facts, an employee of one of the human rights agencies—Miss Mónica Córdoba—was detained and released four hours later;
h) It is the presentation of a real Habeas Corpus that is of interest. In recent months, the simultaneous presentation of similar writs on a particular day of each month has ceased. When the judge has a complete report, he is authorized to publish a purged list of disappeared persons. This is important and of interest;
i) With regard to the action involving the address of the OAS OFFICES IN Buenos Aires, the Judge stated that when a number of reports are joined together along with the original denunciation, the claimant mentioned 760 Avenida de Mayo; and when it was determined that this was the location of an international organization, all proceedings were immediately suspended, and the same thing occurred when Edmundo Vargas Carreño, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was summoned to give a deposition with respect to the OAS address.
j) The material seized in the raids was inventoried and no use of force was in evidence. In order not to break the locks of the premises, a guard was assigned. The judge has no evidence as to the legal status of these organizations, but they have submitted a claim for the seized material. The lists of the various agencies are being compared, and they have been told that the matter is being investigated.
2. The Commission would like to make the following comments regarding the procedure employed by Judge Anzoátegui:
a. It is strange that all documents seized in the raids on the human rights agencies have been transmitted to the Buenos Aires Chief of Police, because such material should be available to the investigating judge;
b. If the denunciation referred to one human rights agency’s abetting false testimony, the Commission does not understand why the raid order was extended to cover the premises occupied by various human rights agencies;
c. The raid covered not only the printed forms for writs of Habeas Corpus, but also included seizure of all objects and documents held by the agencies, which obstructed and continues to impede the normal activities of those agencies;
d. The Commission hopes that, with all of the documents available, the Judge will handle the writs of Habeas Corpus on his own initiative, and will request from the competent authorities the information needed to investigate the disappearance of all persons whose names appear in the list made available to the Judge; and
e. Likewise, the Commission hopes that after several months, the seized objects will be ordered returned, and that the Argentine authorities will guarantee the normal conduct of activities of these human rights agencies and will not engage in reprisals against the leaders and members of those organizations.
Article 3 of Decree 1829/79 provides that the Secretary for
Communications and the Secretary of the National Customs Bureau
shall take whatever measures are required to carry out Article 1 in
their respective jurisdictions. In addition, the introduction to the
Decree cites the authority conferred upon the Executive during the
State of Siege; indicates, in the statement of reasons, that it is
the inescapable duty of the Executive to preserve order and public
safety, and to prevent any activities that might alter them, and
states that analysis of the pamphlet published by these
organizations reveals contents intended to create a state of unrest
in the public, by means of allegations that seek to charge the state
authorities with irregular procedures.
Later, duly accredited representatives of the Permanent
Assembly for Human Rights presented a brief, based on the writ of Amparo,
to the federal court contesting and challenging the report of the
Ministry of the Interior which alleged lack of juridical personality
The orders to conduct the raid were issued to the chief of
the federal Criminal Department of the Office of the Superintendent
of Federal Security and/or any personnel he might designate. The
text states that the object of the raid was to seize all elements of
importance to the investigation being conducted—printed material,
manuscripts, card files, instruments, etc.—as indicated by the
court clerk in each case, who was empowered to use the police force
and to schedule raids if required. When the raids were conducted,
the responsible police captains, under the federal Criminal
Department, recorded the materials and element seized, which
included press releases, printed material, lists of persons who
disappeared, card files, metal pigeon-hole cabinets, notebooks of
various sizes, binders, envelopes with records of detained persons,
printed model forms for filing writs of Habeas Corpus for
persons who disappeared, cardboard forms, file folders and their
contents, documents prepared on the basis of court decisions, stubs
for contributions, pamphlets with printers names, individual
testimony regarding persons detained or who have disappeared, etc.
The record for August 14, 1979, also contains the following: “a
model RA45 Rod Print machine was also identified, but it could not
be seized because of the physical impossibility of moving it.”
In their legal brief, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights
and the Argentine League for the Rights for Man requested immediate
return of the property and documents seized in the raid, and
denounced the criminal action by which the judge had taken
cognizance of the case because it resulted from documentation
seized, containing the records of the arrest and disappearance of
thousands of persons, many of them dating back to 1975. In the days
following the raid and seizure, the lawyers and representatives of
the human rights organizations took steps to obtain the record and
to speak directly with Judge Anzoátegui. He refused to see them and
said that the proceedings were classified as “secret.”