Saturday, 27 March 2010

Argentina: The "Biological Full Stop"

This is a dense article from Rosario/12 about legal proceedings in Argentina and the commemorations of the coup anniversary. The original is by Esteban Stanich, translation mine. I've tried to assist in the background by providing some links, but some notes also follow below.
Tucuman: Dying without convictions: HR organisations: "The slowness of the Justice system is confronting us with the biological full stop[1]"

The physical decline and death of those accused of crimes committed during the military genocide, in the context of the lack of speed of the judicial system, was one of the most urgent demands made yesterday in the mobilisation which took place to commemorate 34 years since the last dictatorship. "The sluggishness of justice is allowing impunity to continue its reign," warned human rights organisations. Of the two thousand people accused or tried for crimes against humanity, just 164 have been convicted. Alperovich is accused of keeping on officials who defended the military coup.

The fact that the justice system is failing to advance the cases against those reponsible for the military genocide promptly is both a retrograde step in the search for the truth and the longed-for convictions, and promotes the situation of impunity which is continually being criticised by various sectors of society.

This impunity manifests itself today in what human rights organisations called the "biological full stop": the worsening state of health and death of large numbers of those accused of being responsible for crimes against humanity.

An example of this is the death two weeks ago of the repressor Albino Mario Zimmerman, one the seven accused who confronted the oral trial[2] with the existence of a clandestine detention centre in the ex-police headquarters in Tucumán.

This was one of the major claims which was made yesterday in the commemorative act carried out in front of crowds in the Plaza Independencia, 34 years after the last military coup which took over the country.

"The apathy in the justice system has brought us to the situation which we face today: confronted with the biological full stop. The accused are dying without being convicted. This means that those guilty of these abhorrent crimes are dying in impunity and the families, victims, and the whole of society do not receive justice," stated the document produced by the organisations participating in the action, which was read out during the event after the march, which ended in front of the government building.

A mobilisation of the people, demanding justice and effective convictions

The massive crowd, which had started its journey from a wall on the corner of the streets of Santa Fe and Junín, opposite the former police headquarters - where a clandestine detention centre had functioned - was evidence of the large amount of ill-feeling of the victims' families towards the justice system and the government itself.

They noted that of the nearly 2000 people accused of or tried for crimes against humanity in the country, only 164 have been convicted.

Furthermore, the fact that of the 200 open cases, only 17 percent have been elevated to oral trial, and the majority of those do not have a precise date, was also criticised.

"Today, Tucumán is going through its first public, oral trial connected with the clandestine detention centre which was in the police headquarters. There were dozens of murderers there, both civilian and military. However, only six of them are on trial for just 22 victims. This is what we are talking about when we say that justice is slow and negligent," maintained Natalia Ariñez of the group HIJOS.[3]

In their pronouncement, the organisations also accused the provincial government of maintaining a structure of officials linked to the dictatorship. "We reject the impunity which is still prevalent in Tucumán and that (José) Alperovich continues to shelter defenders of the dictatorship such as Francisco Sassi Colombre (interventor[4] of the Caja Popular credit union), Pablo Baillo (former Minister of Security), and the Blaquier family (owners of the Ledesma sugar refinery which is accused of being complicit in the genocide).

Moreover, they demanded the continuation of the trials of the murders and their military and civilian accomplices - mentioning the names of the journalists accused of being army informants, Osvaldo "Cacho" García and Roberto Álvarez - as well as insisting that those convicted should serve out their sentences in common jails.

They also demanded the immediate appearance of the disappeared witness Julio López and the restoration of the identity of the 440 young people disappeared during the dictatorship.

Following the pronouncements, a commemorative artistic festival took place in the square with various invited groups.

This was not the only event which took place yesterday to mark the Day of Memory for Truth and Justice. Prior to this, the Partido Obrero and Familiares de Víctimas de la Impunidad (Workers Party and Families of Victims of Impunity) had held their own event in the Plaza Independencia having marched from Plaza Yrigoyen, while activists from the Pueblo Unido (United People's Party) and the Movimiento Libres del Sur (Free People of the South Movement) marched around the main public walkway after holding a meeting in front of the Casa Historica. They finished before 9pm, just minutes before the arrival of the participants from the human rights and social organisations who approached from 25 de mayo street

[1] el punto final biológico - Normally I would have translated this as something like "the biological endpoint", however in the case of Argentina, use of the phrase "full stop" was pretty much compulsory. The Argentine reader would immediately recognise the reference to the Ley de Punto Final, known in English as the Full Stop Law, which put an end to trials of perpetrators of human rights abusers following the dictatorship. The idea is that a second amnesty is taking place simply due to the failure of the justice system not to act more speedily.

[2] juicio oral - oral trial. Not the usual state of affairs in Argentina, or indeed the rest of Latin America, where most legal proceedings are drawn-out affairs behind closed doors, involving the lengthy production of large amounts of written documentation. Human rights organisations place great worth on significant trials being held orally, with hearings accessible to the public.

[3] HIJOS - Hijos e hijos por la identidad y la justicia, contro el olvido y el silencio - Sons and daughters for identity and justice, against forgetting and silence. The organisation of children of the disappeared (functioning mainly as separate regional groups). The rather lengthy full name creates the snappy acronym which itself means "children".

[4] interventor - offical auditor or receiver; government-appointed manager.

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