Sunday, 28 December 2014

Argentina: Human rights achievements of 2014

Infojus Noticias provides us with a look back at Argentina's year in human rights, so here's a translation of the main points.

Found grandchildren:
The recovery of the identity of Ignacio Guido Montoya Carlotto on August 5 was the biggest media event of the year, but he was not the first grandchild to be found. On February 6, a young woman was confirmed as the daughter of Oscar Rómulo Gutiérrez and Liliana Isabel Acuña. Later, the forensic anthropology team found the remains of three pregnant woman who had been murdered before giving birth. In August, Ana Libertad Baratti de la Cuadra was found, and at the end of the this year grandchild number 116, the child of Ana Rubel and Hugo Castro, regained his true identity.

Trials for appropriations:
There were four trials linked to found grandchildren. On September 9, the appropriators (i.e. the illegal adopters) of Pablo Gaona Miranda (found grandchild no. 106), plus the person accused of handing over the child to them, were sentenced to between six and eight years in jail. Medical personnel linked to the births of disappeared children and the falsification of their documentations also received prison sentences.

Trials for state terrorism:
14 trials relating to clandestine detention centres drew to a close. In October, the trial over crimes in La Cacha concluded. Six human rights abusers were convicted of the murder of Osvaldo Tordo Sigfrido de Benedetti, six more for the Metán case, and ten for crimes in Rosario. 

The number of perpetrators convicted since the return to democracy is, therefore, 559.

Ongoing trials
There are currently 17 oral trials ongoing, 11 of which started this year. In these, 279 people are accused of over 2,220 crimes. These include the mega-trials for the detention centres of La Perla and ESMA, people accused of crimes under Plan Condor, and of the systematic stealing of babies.

Legal investigations
62 new legal investigations were initiated up to October.

49 alleged human rights abusers are currently on the run; this is down from 73 at the end of last year. Three were caught in early December.

Finally, the EAAF managed to identify ten disappeared people this year, in addition to the three pregnant woman mentioned above. This brings the total it has identified in Argentina to 651.

2014: 4 nietos, 17 juicios en marcha y otros 40 represores condenados (Infojus Noticias)

Most-read posts of 2014

2014 is drawing to a close and it's been a mixed one for the blog, with life getting in the way quite frequently. Nevertheless, there have been a few highlights in Latin America and in my posts. There's no question about the stand-out LatAm event of the year for me: it was Estela de Carlotto of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo discovering her own grandchild in August. A truly amazing moment, the kind that you didn't dare think would happen. There was a massive outpouring of emotion from Argentina, and indeed the world, in response.

These are my top five posts of the year:

"Escrache" is word of the year for Fundéu BBVA - 1 January

Book review: Carmen Castillo's Un día de octubre en Santiago - 8 March

Argentina: Grandmothers' president finds her grandson - 6 August

Peru: Exhibition of victims' clothing - 10 September

Response to "Memory is not history"- 15 September

Monday, 15 December 2014

Uruguay: Update on Graf Spee eagle

Despite being a bit of a detour from the main focus of this blog, my 2010 post on the eagle of the Graf Spee pocket battleship is one of the most-read posts I've written.

We're over four years on and not much progress has been made. Now the BBC asks "What should Uruguay do with its Nazi eagle?".

The country's supreme court has ruled that the Uruguayan state is the owner of the artifact, but that the salvage company should also receive half of the profits in the event of a sale. Businessman Alfredo Etchegaray, one of the men who led the operation to recover the eagle, told the BBC that the eagle could be worth up to US$ 15 million."Having the eagle in a box doesn't benefit anybody," he said.

There has been reporting that the eagle is not appropriately stored, but Uruguay denies this.

I'm tempted to agree with Etchegaray that the country could make good use of the cash and possibly display a replica of the eagle instead of the real thing. It's an amazing historical piece and while I certainly understand the concerns of the German government, I think it should be on display somewhere. I was just listening to a piece on the radio this morning about the difficulties of knowing what to do with the house where Hitler was born, in Austria. These are always thorny issues because the last thing you want is a shrine for neo-Nazis, but letting the sites/objects rot hardly seems to be the solution either.

What should Uruguay do with its Nazi eagle? (BBC)

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Brief update on Brazilian truth commission report

Obviously there's been a lot of reporting on Brazil's truth commission, happily Colin from Americas North and South has saved me the job of doing a massive round-up by providing an excellent one here.

I would just add this post by Nina Schneider at Transitional Justice in Brazil on the report ceremony itself.

Also, the report itself can be accessed here (Portuguese).

Uruguayan prison diary protected by Unesco

A diary written on cigarette papers by a Uruguayan political prisoner has been added to Uncesco's Memory of the World programme.

Jorge Tiscornia, a member of the MLN-Tupamaros, kept the diary (known as "El almanaque" in Spanish) during the 12 years he spent in prison during the 1970s and 80s, hiding the papers in a pair of hollowed-out clogs.

In a statement, Unesco said it was "a living memory of long isolation, revealing the strength of perseverance".

An amazing document.

Uruguay prison diary preserved by Unesco (BBC)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Brazil releases truth commission report

Brazil's truth commission report is out.

Here are some of the stark facts:

- illegal arrests, torture, executions and disappearances were systematic during the dictatorship
- 377 perpetrators of human rights abuses identified, around 100 of whom are still alive.
- 434 deaths, probably more but findings limited by difficulty in gaining access to information.

As the Guardian notes,
“Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers,” the report states. The commission “therefore totally rejects the explanation offered up until today that the serious violations of human rights constituted a few isolated acts or excesses resulting from the zeal of a few soldiers”.
The report points the finger at five ex-presidents as ultimately responsible for the atrocities.

Brazil has waited a long time for this information and it's good to see it out there and being reported on - and on International Human Rights Day. However, the report is not just an end in itself; now we need to see trials.

Brazil truth commission: Abuse 'rife' under military rule (BBC)
Brazil Truth Commission: Victims revisit torture cells (BBC)
Rousseff in tears as Brazilian report details junta’s killings and torture (Guardian)
Relatório final da Comissão da Verdade pede revogação parcial da Lei da Anistia e responsabiliza ex-presidentes (O Globo)