Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Accordingly, Marcela and Felipe turned up to give blood samples, and the international press has picked up on the story.
The legal wrangling continues. The Noble siblings went to the Legal Medical department for testing, not, as the law stipulates, the National Bank of Genetic Data. Plus, they are demanding that their DNA be compared against just two possible biological families, who initiated the legal proceedings, and not against all potential matches. The significance of both these moves is to attempt to prevent the Noble children becoming part of the national search to identify the disappeared children and limit the number of families that could be linked to them. The recent court order allowed them to use the forensics laboratory for the test, but this contradicts a recent law which states that all such testing must take place within the national genetic database. Naturally, the Grandmothers are loudly protesting this development.
Apparently, results of the tests will take around two weeks - although I don't know if they will be released to the media immediately.
Las muestras de sangre de la polemica (Pagina/12)
Los Noble Herrera "cumplen con la ley" (Critica Digital, source of image)
Argentina takes DNA sample to track missing kids (AP)
DNA tests as Argentina seeks children of 'disappeared' (BBC)
Search for missing children in Argentina involves prominent media mogul (Mercopress)
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Forcibly recruited by Shining Path and then murdered by the forces of the State they turned to for help - another tragic, but sadly typical, example of the fate of indigenous people in the Peruvian conflict.
According to the witnesses, a column of Sendero Luminoso rebels ‘recruited’ “at least 40 people” in the village of Raccaya on Nov.25, 1983, most of them fourth and fifth grade children (10-12 yrs old), and led them on a forced march for more than 10 hours on a circuitous route to the village at Umasi, where they stopped for food and shelter in the school building (the villages are only about an hour and a half apart on a bad road).
A teacher at Umasi sought help from the military base at Canaria, and at dawn on Nov.27, two military patrols approached the area, surrounded the school and threw grenades into two of the schoolrooms, injuring children and the Senderistas, who surrendered. The witnesses said the military raped girls and women, and shot the children and five adults. Two large graves were dug to bury the bodies, and a third grave was dug to bury two bodies that did not fit into the others.
Exhuman los cadaveres de 25 ninos asesinados por una patrulla del Ejercito en 1983 (CNDDHH)
Peru forensic team finds bodies of 25 children killed in Ayacucho during internal war (Peruvian Times)
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
The construction of a monument in honour of the civilian and military victims of terrorism committed by Shining Path and the MRTA is responding to a spirit of opposition to the Museum of Memory, believes Germán Vargas, president of the Asociación Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope Association).
Vargas Farías gave his opinion on the CNR radio station about the project of the Asociación de Oficiales, Generales y Almirantes (Officers', Generals' and Admirals' Association) which announced the consturction of a monument in honour of the "defenders of democracy and victims of terrorism" in Jesús María [a district of Lima].
He indicated the existence of an intention to present a fragmented memory of what happened during the turbulent years of terrorism. "There is the intention to present a separate memory, of one sector of the population, in this case the military sector, which seems strange to me coming from a top functionary of the State such as the Minister (of Defence, Rafael) Rey," he stated.
Vargas said that it was contradictory for conflicting opinions to be coming from members of the government about the Museum of Memory, a space which has not
even been built yet but which has been the subject of substantial criticism.
"The attitude of Minister Rey, who always opposes anything which would show what really happened during those years, just demonstrates he is at the forefront of impunity. He questions the museum because it will show what really happened in the country. It's really a cheek," he claimed.
The monument planned by the Officers', Generals' and Admirals' Association will seek to honour the memory of all victims of terrorism and those who offered their lives in the struggle against terrorists from 1980 onwards, according to the president of the institution, Lieutenant General of the Peruvian air force (FAP), Arnaldo Velarde Ramírez.
He said that the initiative aimed to evoke the gratitude of the Peruvian people and that the building of the monument would be funded by donations. The project was approved in May by the Defense Commission of Congress, while the Mayor of Jesús María, Enrique Ocrospoma, has donated a large site in his district for this purpose.
Monumento en honor a militares presentaria memoria fragmentada del conflicto armado (CNDDHH)
What morals, eh?
Brusa was re-appointed a judge in Santa Fe after the fall of the military junta, but was sacked in 2000 for hindering an investigation into a hit-and-run accident in which he ran over a swimmer with his motorboat and fled.
Argentina 'dirty war' ex-judge gets 21 years (AFP)
"Un colaborador del Ejercito" (Pagina/12)
Former Argentine leader Menem indicted for graft (AFP)
NGOs Urge President Colom to release military archives (WOLA)
Awaiting sentence in forced disappearance case (Naty en Guate)
Historic first sentence against former member of Guatemalan military for crime of forced disappearance (Naty en Guate)
Plan Sofia 82 is handed over (Naty en Guate)
Rights courts condemns Guatemala in 1983 massacre (AP)
Twenty Years After US Invasion, Panama Still in Search of a Body Count (truthout)
Peruvian Police Identify Commander of Resurgent Shining Path Guerrilla Group (Americas Quarterly)
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have announced the recuperation of grandchild number one hundred. In this case, the story is different to that of the other grandchildren illegally appropriated during the most recent military dictatorship. Matías is the son of Tulio Valenzuela and Norma Espinosa[pictured], who were both Montoneros militants. Tulio died in 1978 having been surrounded by an ESMA taskforce, and as he was in hiding he had never had the chance to acknowledge his child. Matías always lived with Norma and knew that he was their son, but only now has he been able to cross-check his DNA with those of the family of his father stored in the National Comission for the Right to Identity (Conadi). The results of the test have allowed him to take his father's last name.
"The case of Matías is an atypical one," Estela Carlotto [President of the Grandmothers] told Pagina/12. "He wasn't disappeared, but he has recovered his identity; he is a grandchild whose identity was split in half because his father, Tulio Valenzuela, had met him but never had the chance to give him his name because they abducted him. Norma Espinosa, his mother, told him something of this story and he, well, when he was an adult he began to want to complete his history with his father's surname."
He needed the Grandmothers' help because it was not an easy story, said Carlotto. "It wasn't easy because he didn't have any contact with his father's family, the family didn't believe in the story; many families sometimes shut themselves off from some things which seem alien to them, and the thing was, Tucho (Tulio) had been together with Norma and had this son, and then life went on and he had a child with Raquel Negro - this is how love work, in the end, normal people fall in and out of love." [translation mine]
Thursday, 17 December 2009
...the latest draft of the plan uses the phrase "Truth and Reconciliation."
"It's a contradiction for the government to propose reconciliation, when it has done nothing to make information available, and has refused to declassify its archives," said Elizabeth Silveira e Silva of the Torture Never Again Group in Rio de Janeiro, the sister of a student who was forcibly disappeared.
"It's not possible to reconcile people without the recovery of the victims' bodies, and without the truth," said Beatriz Affonso, head of the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) in Brazil. The reconciliation that is needed is between state and society, but Brazil has not yet officially admitted the crimes committed during the 1964-1985 dictatorship.
It's an interesting point. Of the Latin American truth commissions, most - but not all - used the word "truth" in their titles and some chose to talk of "reconciliation". Brazilian rights activists want the commission there to be for "justice and truth" - a clearly different inflection to "truth and reconciliation". Some would argue that mentioning reconciliation at this stage is jumping ahead in the slow process towards societal forgiveness of crimes, and cannot be mandated or prescribed. Of course, in the end it is actions that will count.
Brazil's Turn for Truth and Justice (IPS)
This is today's cartoon from Pagina/12. It features a series of people wondering "Will I be number 100?" and at the bottom the word "grandchildren". It's referring to the 30 year struggle of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to find their disappeared grandchildren. Until now, they have solved 99 cases, and a new one is generally uncovered every few months. So we are tantalisingly close to the symbolic 100th grandchild. Of course, this person won't be any more or less important than all the others, but there will undoubtedly be particular attention focused on the hundredth case.
The Grandmothers carry out their own investigations and also rely on tip-offs to trace the offspring of those pregnant women abducted by the regime (and the fewer children who were themselves kidnapped when very young). In addition, since the disappeared children came of age (most of them were born in captivity in the last 1970s), the Grandmothers have been asking young Argentine adults directly if they have doubts about where they come from. Do the tales of their birth not add up, or are documents missing? Were they adopted at the height of the violence, in 1976-78, and is there something not quite right about their adoptive parents' story of their origins? Is it just a feeling? Found grandchild No. 98, Martin Amarilla-Molfino, approached the Grandmothers himself with his suspicions. Others in the same situation can consult the Grandmothers with any queries. The 100th grandchild is definitely out there.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Unrepentant "Blond Angel" 18 Others from the ESMA Stand Trial (truthout)
Rights court condemns Mexico in 'dirty war' case (AP)
Cocaine and rebels haunt Peru's remote jungle (Reuters)
Monday, 14 December 2009
In this instance, though, I can only reiterate the words of the infinitely better-informed Adam Isacson at Plan Colombia and Beyond:
In today’s edition, columnist Mary O’Grady unquestioningly takes the testimony of a demobilized FARC fighter at face value. Her column not only fails to verify her source’s allegations: it gravely threatens the security of a community and the organizations working with it. This is shameful.Among other things, she writes,
He also told me that the supposed peaceniks who ran the local NGO were his allies and an important FARC tool in the effort to discredit the military.O'Grady bolsters the despicable behaviour of the Colombian government in smearing human rights activists at every turn, and every act like that only serves to further endanger those courageous, hard-working people. To put this into context,
Margaret Sekaggya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who visited Colombia in September, told the panel that she remained concerned over what she has called a "pattern of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders.''
Sekaggya challenged the government of President Alvaro Uribe to "genuinely address'' their concerns.
Rights activists and community organizers have long been among the primary targets of both right-wing paramilitary forces and leftist rebel armies in Colombia, with more than 60 murdered between 2002 and 2008. Violence has abated greatly with the demobilization of more than 30,000 paramilitary fighters and the routing of guerrillas from major urban areas.
But last year, 11 rights activists were murdered, according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, and in the first nine months of this year, nine rights defenders have been reported killed. [emphasis mine]
Colombia rights defenders say they're under constant attack (Miami Herald)
Sunday, 13 December 2009
"There are conflicting feelings," Ana Careaga, whose mother was kidnapped by order of Astiz, told AFP. "On one hand, there's deep pain, on the other we see that there can be justice 32 years later.
"It's important to see them in the dock."
Astiz is one of those figures from the Argentine dictatorship who seems to capture the interest of the media, and his "blond angel of death" nickname in particular crops up again and again. Although he is not the only defendant in the ESMA megatrial, there have been a whole series of articles focusing on him alone.
'Blond angel of death' on trial in Argentina (AFP, source of quote above)
Argentine "Dirty War" Spy on Trial (Impunity Watch)
The "blond angel of death" on trial in Buenos Aires (Mercopress)
A Personal Account of Testifying at a Guatemalan Genocide Trial (Unredacted)
Guatemala: Army Records Spur Hopes for Justice (IPS)
My attention was caught by an article in the New York Times about the reluctance of young Chileans to vote.
Just 9.2 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds are registered to vote on Sunday, the lowest number for a presidential election since democracy was restored in 1990That really is an amazing low figure. The article identifies a series of interconnected reasons for young people's rejection of the electoral system.
I hope that 9 percent becomes zero percent,” said Gonzalo Castillo, an 18-year-old history major at the University of Chile, who said he refused to register. “All the candidates represent the interests of the oligarchy, of big business interests.”As the article points out, young Chileans will engage with political issues which they feel affected by - but using methods such as public protest, not by voting. This is an interesting legacy of the dictatorship; simplistically, one might expect the population to have an enthusiasm for the democratic process fostered by the length of time it was denied to them, but this is not exactly how it works. Susana Kaiser's book Postmemories of Terror, for which the author interviewed many young Argentines who were too young to remember the dictatorship personally, revealed a similar reticence to engage with the political system. Aside from activists who had strong personal connections to victims of the regime, such as members of HIJOS, many young Argentines were uninterested in party politics, vague about the exact causes of political repression, and still felt inhibited by the belief of their parents that political involvement could be dangerous. For both countries, the lack of engagement of younger generations could pose a serious challenge in coming years.
Chile’s young people say they are frustrated by a system that requires anyone who registers to cast votes for the rest of their lives, and slaps a fine on those who do not. They say the system, set up under General Pinochet, limits their freedom of expression and discourages them from registering.
But the younger generation is also deeply apathetic about traditional politics in general, and fiercely independent of the issues that concern their parents, most of whom lived through the dictatorship.
“Chile’s youth today see political discourse as the language of their parents, not as their language,” said Juan Eduardo Faúndez, the director of the National Youth Institute. “These are the children of democracy, and they have other options and other demands of Chilean society, and of the political class.”
Chile's 'Children of Democracy' Sitting Out Presidential Election (NY Times)
In other news, exhumations of mass graves may shed light on the death of a British-Chilean priest in 1973.
Woodward died at the Valparaiso naval hospital on September 22. The official cause of his death was “cardio-respiratory arrest.” But this official version has always been contested, with his family insisting that the priest died as a result of torture.[...]
Witness reports claim that Woodward was beaten and repeatedly dunked in a swimming pool until he suffocated. He was taken to the Esmeralda, which was then be used to hold political opponents of the military regime, where attempts were made to revive him. His body was then buried anonymously in a mass grave with other victims.
Search for remains of British priest killed when[sic] 1973 coup (Mercopress)
The international media has picked up on the story of the six arrests in connection with the death of former Chilean president, Eduardo Frei Montalva, whose son is a candidate in today's elections. Frei senior was originally said to have died of natural causes, but it now seems that he was poisoned.
Pinochet's other victim (Guardian)
6 Arrested for Murder of Former Chilean President (Impunity Watch)
Chile judge charges six over ex-president's 1982 death (BBC)
Friday, 11 December 2009
The turn of the Navy mob
From today, Federal Oral Court 5 will judge Astiz, Acosta, Cavallo, Pernías and Rolón, among other accused from the Navy and security forces, for the crimes against Rodolfo Walsh, the French nuns, the founders of the Mothers [of the Plaza de Mayo] and 79 other victims.
At 10am today, in the basement of Comodoro Py, an Argentine court will begin to judge the 17 repressors from the ESMA, that universal symbol of State terrorism. This will mark the end of a third of a century of impunity, Raúl Alfonsín's laws of forgetting, Carlos Menem's pardons, the resistance of the political, judicial, corporate and religious institutions, and those hundreds of parents who died without seeing justice for their loved ones.
The majority of the abductions, tortures and murders which this trial will consider have been proven since the mid-1980s. The perpetrators have been living in impunity for the past twenty years thanks to the 'Full Stop' and 'Due Obedience' [amnesty] laws. Of the three major cases which are grouped together for the first trial, testimonies A is the most wide-ranging, with 79 victims. A few of them survived. For some, there is proof of their murder. Most were seen in captivity and remain disappeared.
The second part, testimonies B, relates to the crimes against the French nuns and the founders of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, abducted on 8 December 1977, tortured in the ESMA and thrown into the sea on the "death flights". In opposition to the twenty years of impunity are the achievements of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, who identified the victims after finding their bodies buried in unmarked graves in coastal cemeteries.
The third part is called testimonies C and its main actor is the writer and journalist Rodolfo Walsh, terminated by the machine gun of police inspector Weber after resisting abduction with a small pistol. The investigation into the death of Walsh, whose body was seen in the ESMA but was never released to his next of kin, includes questions about the whereabouts of his unfinished book, which the Navy also declined to hand over.
Here are the accused in full:
La hora de la patota de la Armada (Pagina/12)
The trial will last for months. I will attempt to flag up important testimonies, occurrences, etc but won't be able to follow it on a daily basis. More information can be found on the website of the Centro de informacion judicial (Spanish) and on the blog Causa ESMA (Spanish), as well as in the Argentine media and web sites of human rights organisations.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Just a day before his trial is due to start, notorious Argentine human rights abuser Alfredo Astiz has asked for it to be suspended. He has been transferred to hospital, apparently with kidney problems.
Astiz pidio suspender el juicio en su contra (Critica Digital)
Thanks to News of the Restless for this story; Sabina has also provided a partial translation of the article.
For further information on the ESMA and other trials going on right now, see also a selection of blogs:
Juicio Campo de Mayo
Causa 1er. Cuerpo de ejercito
Monday, 7 December 2009
Six to face trial in Chile ex-president murder case (Reuters)
Historic first sentence against former member of Guatemalan military for crime of forced disappearance (Guatemala Solidarity Network)
Suriname Dictator's Trial Resumes with New Testimony (Impunity Watch)
Sunday, 6 December 2009
That hasn't changed, so Pinochet junior is now running as an independent for the Chilean congress in next week's election. In his televised campaign he simply showed a picture of himself, his mother, and his notorious grandfather. Mind you, you can't really blame him for taking the visual approach: he had just two seconds to do it.
Rodrigo's mother Lucia was elected councillor of a rich suburb of Santiago last year. But the family are also facing challenges: crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon is after their money.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Salvador Allende's daughter Isabel (cousin of the author...) is already a deputy in the Chilean congress.
Pinochet's grandson sets sights on congress seat (Guardian)
Saturday, 5 December 2009
This time, it's focusing on Argentina, where documents show that the abduction of newspaper editor Jacobo Timerman led to severe conflict within the military junta itself.
The Timerman case is an emblematic one of the 'dirty war'. He was editor of La Opinion, one of the very few publications to be openly opposed to the dictatorship. This, naturally, made him a powerful enemy of the military and in 1977 he was detained and tortured. He was well-connected, and international condemnation of his treatment eventually pressured the military regime enough to secure his release, when he went into exile for the rest of the dictatorship.
Timerman's side of the story in detailed in his book Prisoner without a name, cell without a number, which is still in print. Now the other side can be revealed as well.
One September 1979 document states, "President Videla, the civilian Minister of Justice, and the entire Supreme Court threatened to resign" if the military high command refused to release Jacobo Timerman.As before, the documents are available for download from the National Security Archive website.
Timerman Case Threatened Argentine Military Regime (National Security Archive)
Journalist's 1977 arrest threatened Argentine dictatorship, documents show (Journalism in the Americas)
Caso Timerman: el dia en que Videla amago con renunciar (Clarin)
Friday, 4 December 2009
"We were trying to arrest those responsible for what happened in November* ... and we were attacked by bullets and rocks while trying to catch one suspect. We responded in legitimate defense," General Walter Rivera told Reuters.
David Velazco, a lawyer for the victims, said police used excessive force. He said police were serving warrants for eight suspects in the November attack, but there were no warrants out for the arrest of the two peasants killed on Wednesday.
"The peasants didn't shoot anybody. They don't have arms, only arrows or maybe some rocks," he said.
In the fighting, two peasants – identified as Castulo Correa Huayama, 39, and Vicente Romero Ramirez, 52 – died from police gunfire and six other townspeople were wounded, among them an 18-year-old man who was hit in the head by a bullet, CNR reported.* See here.
Muertes en Majaz: la version policial seria falsa (CNDDHH)
Mas abusos por parte de miembros de la PNP en contra de campesinos de Huancabamba (CNDDHH)
Rechazan version policial sobre muerte de comuneros de Huancabamba (La Republica)
9th National Human Rights Awards in Lima on Wednesday:
Tenth edition of Ojos Propios dedicated to legendary Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi:
Human rights week and part of the Yuyanapaq exhibition in Trujillo:
The musician and his broken hands became an international symbol of rejection of the Pinochet regime. Jara's widow Joan noted his iconic status;
“There’s a tendency to say, and even government leaders say this, that we’re working for justice particularly in emblematic cases,” she said.Chile reburies slain singer Victor Jara (Hurriyet Daily News)
“Victor is an emblematic case. I can have the hope that we can discover the truth and perhaps even achieve justice, that those responsible could be sentenced,” she said. “But it’s not right that so many other cases are left unresolved.”
Chile honors famous folk singer killed in coup (AP)
Chile wake for singer Jara (BBC)
Wake Begins for Chile's Iconic Musician Victor Jara (Santiago Times)
There are almost 200 pages of platoon reports, and they each repeat a similar story: A military patrol enters a Mayan village in the Guatemalan region of El Quiché in the summer of 1982. The soldiers arrest anybody who does not flee in time and “eliminate” anybody who tries to escape. Then they burn the houses, destroy the crops and kill the livestock.The story is, indeed, familiar. Indigenous people are automatically assumed of collusion with the guerrillas and simply wiped out by the armed forces of their own nation. This particular report focuses on 'Operation Sofia' in the summer of 1982 and, as Kate Doyle of the NSA points out, military intelligence from this period is rare and, thus, highly significant.
“The point man indicated an individual who on seeing the patrol tried to flee, but he was eliminated,” one report states. “He was carrying only supplies (juice, rice and salt).”Court Papers Detail Killings by Guatemala's Military (NY Times)
The full 359-page document is available for download here:
Operation Sofia: Documenting Genocide in Guatemala (National Security Archive)
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Brian Brynes Describes CNN's 'Backstory' on Argentina's Forensic Anthropology Team (The Argentine Post)
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Guatemala's unregulated morticians (Guardian)