Sunday 30 June 2013

Germany: Intelligence services do not have to release Eichmann info

This is a slight departure from my usual focus, but there is an Argentine connection.

German daily Bild, which is not exactly the first publication to spring to mind when you think of investigative journalism, has just lost a court case in which it attempted to force the German intelligence service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) to release information pertaining to Adolf Eichmann. The paper wants to prove that Germany knew Eichmann was in hiding in Argentina in the early '50s. It had already reported this on the basis of a partial release of the documentation.

The federal administrative court in Leipzig ruled that the BND does not have to released the unredacted documents. The paper is considering taking the case to Germany's highest court (the Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe.

The BND stressed that the majority of the documentation is available and said that the redaction was to protect personal data and sensitive security information. Bild lawyer Christoph Partsch said that the paper believes that Germany is harmed by the withholding of the information, not by its publication. 

Andreas Nachama, director of the "Topographie des Terrors" foundation, criticised the ruling and suggested that the redacted information could be embarrassing for Germany, since Hans Globke, the head of the federal chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) after WWII and thus ultimate head of the BND, was a known Nazi supporter. Dieter Graumann, Germany's leading Jewish representative, also expressed his incomprehension at the decision.

This is disappointing. It's hard to believe that there can be 60-year-old information in these documents which could harm Germany's interests. Germany usually, and for obvious reasons, strives to be open about this kind of thing, so this feels like a step backwards. Good on Bild for pursuing the issue and I hope we will see inside the full files at some point.

Germany can keep Eichmann records secret, court rules (Guardian)
Die geheimen Akten des Adolf Eichmann (N24)
BILD verklagt Bundesnachrichtendienst (Bild)
BND muss Eichmann-Akten nicht freigeben (Bild)
Alemania: la justicia rechazó abrir los archivos sobre la fuga de Eichmann a la Argentina (

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Argentina: RIP Laura Bonaparte

Laura Bonaparte, a member of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, died on 23 June aged 88.
Here she is with her daughter, one of the people she kept fighting for.

It's impossible to imagine how she felt when not just this daughter, but seven members of her family were disappeared by the military regime (her ex-husband, three children and the partners of all the children). Yet instead of crumbling or giving in to bitterness, she started a neverending battle for justice. I don't think it's going too far to say that the world, never mind just Argentina, owes a lot to people like her.
“She was a brilliant woman, who fought for memory and justice despite suffering so much,” stated Mother of the Plaza de Mayo Founding Line member Taty Almeida.
Icon Mother of Plaza de Mayo dies (Buenos Aires Herald)
La Madre que seguirá alumbrando (Pagina/12)
 Última entrevista de ABC a Laura Bonaparte (ABC)

Incidentally, Bonaparter's granddaughter is Pagina/12 journalist Victoria Ginzberg. 

Chile: Controversy over street name change

There is a political dispute in Chile over proposals to change the name of a street currently called Avenida 11 de septiembre in commemoration of the coup which brought Pinochet to power.

The avenue is located in Providencia, greater Santiago, and local mayor Josefa Errázuriz wants to return it to "Nueva Providencia", the name it held until 1980. A council vote on the issue was supposed to take place yesterday.

However, Manuel José Monckeberg from the Renovación Nacional (RN) party - to which president Sebastián Piñera also belongs - objected to the move. He called for a citizens' consultation before the vote.

One of the objections is apparently the administrative costs to businesses of a change of address. On the other hand, 600 people recently signed a petition in favour of the switch.

As it turned out, the vote did not take place yesterday since the opposing councillors, Monckeberg and three others, decided not to turn up and thus quorum was not reached. The vote may now be rescheduled. Errázuriz called on the absent councillors to "show their faces". Rodrigo García Márquez (Partido por la democracia, PPD) criticised his colleagues as well. He also responded to Pilar Cruz, who had said that changing a street name would not "wipe out history".

"The 11th of September was a painful day for Chile, it is a date which marks the most tragic day in the whole of the 20th century. There was no other political, social, or human act more dramatic in all the 20th century than the 11th September 1973, only comparable with the civil war of '91, in the 19th century," said García. He added, "I believe having one of the main streets of an important area like Providencia with this name is abusing the pain of a lot of people who lived through those years and above all the relatives of the victims who are no longer with us."

I would agree with García. Of course, you could argue that changing the name is like trying to pretend the past never happened, but I would disagree with that. A country uses its street names to commemorate worthy people and events. They are not neutral. They are part of the image of a place and make a statement about its values. Merely being well-known does not get you a street; that's why your average serial killer does not have anywhere named after him. Commemoration of traumatic events takes place differently.

Incidentally, quite a lot of the streets where I live in Germany are named after prominent people and under the street name is a small plaque explaining who the person was (like this one). I think this is really great idea and you could imagine something similar in this case, with an explanation of the previous name and why it was changed.

Providencia cita a concejo por cambio de nombre de Av. 11 de Septiembre (La Tercera)
Av. 11 de septiembre: no se vota cambio por falta de quórum (Terra)
Concejal PPD de Providencia refutó actitud "indecorosa" de sus pares de la Alianza (

Thanks to Setty for pointing out this story. See here for more discussion of street name changes in Argentina.

Monday 17 June 2013

Chile: From detention centre to homeless shelter

What a positive use of a place loaded with traumatic memory: the Chilean stadium where Victor Jara and other detainees were held during the Pinochet dictatorship is now a winter homeless shelter.

Around 500 people find shelter there each night, and according to AP, the number of homeless people who died on the street because of the cold fell from 150 in 2010 to 28 last year.

Check out the photo show in the Miami Herald for more:

AP PHOTOS: Chilean torture center becomes shelter (Miami Herald)

Read more here:

Read more here:

Argentina: El Silencio

As part of the ESMA trial, an official visit has been conducted to El Silencio, an island in the province of Buenos Aires where prisoners were temporarily moved during the visit of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) in 1979.

The site appears to have been largely untouched for the past 30 years:
"The place is like it was, the only difference is the vegetation has grown up," said survivor Carlos Lordkipanidse. "The buildings have really deteriorated because they haven't been maintained. What has gone is the landing stage, that's not there. Everything else is. The feeling is terrible, it's like going into the ESMA."

The island previously belonged to the diocese of Buenos Aires and was bought by the navy using fake identity documents of a detainee who had been released and gone into exile. The prisoners spent over a  month there while CIDH inspectors were shown the cleaned, spruced-up ESMA. They were held in two groups, one of which enjoyed comparatively acceptable conditions while the detainees of the other were kept permanently hooded and locked in. It should be noted that despite the deception by the junta, the CIDH's report is still highly critical of the Argentine government.

A number of survivors attended the visit, including Victor Basterra, whom I've written about before.

Los sonidos del Silencio (Pagina/12)

Further info:
For the CIDH report on the human rights situation in Argentina, dated 1980, see here.
For an excerpt in English from Horacio Verbitsky's book El Silencio, which details the relationship between the Catholic Church in Argentina and the military regime, see here.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Chile recommends dropping extradition

The Chilean authorities have recommended dropping extradition proceedings for six former members of the secret police (DINA). The men are wanted in Spain for the killing of a Spanish employee of the UN in 1976.

The accused are: Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, José Ríos San Martin, Jaime Lepe Orellana, Pablo Belmar Labbé, Guillermo Salinas Torres and René Quilhot Palma.

Carmelo Soria's death was set up to look like a drink-driving accident.

Prosecutor Monica Maldonado said that it would not be appropriate to extradite the men as the crime is also under investigation in Chile. Moreover, several of them are already serving jail sentences for human rights abuses in the country and in particular, Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, the former director of the DINA, has been sentenced to 150 years.

Chile to block extradition for Carmelo Soria 'killers' (BBC)
Recomiendan desestimar la extradición de seis agentes chilenos por el asesinato de un diplomático español (

Saturday 8 June 2013

Peru news

Well, a couple of good news stories to report from Peru:

Firstly, president Ollanta Humala decided not to issue a pardon on humanitarian grounds to former president Alberto Fujimori, who will continue to serve his jail sentence for human rights abuses. Humala had been advised by a committee which decided that Fujimori was not suffering from a terminal illness. Indeed, it also found Fujimori was not suffering from a severe physical illness or severe and incurable pychological illness either.

Fujimori is said to be "frustrated" by the decision. I would have been pretty frustrated if someone responsible for numerous murders had got out of prison by faking a terminal illness, so there we go.

Presidente Ollanta Humala decidió no indultar a Alberto Fujimori (El Comercio)
 Las 10 frases que dejó Humala al explicar por qué no indultó a Fujimori (El Comercio)
Alberto Fujimori tomó “con bastante frustración” negativa de indulto (El Comercio)
Peru: Ex-President Is Denied a Pardon (NY Times)
Peru's ex president Alberto Fujimori is denied pardon (BBC)

Meanwhile, Shining Path leader Artemio (Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala) has been sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorism offences, drug smuggling and money laundering, and ordered to pay reparations of 500 million soles. He will be held in the naval base at Callao, alongside his boss, Abimael Guzmán.

Earlier this week, Artemio wept as he told the court he had "nothing to be sorry for" and said that he would prefer death to life in jail. There is no doubt that he was in the top ranks of a ruthless organisation which slaughtered anyone opposed to it or those who just got in the way (he even gave an interview in which he described the massacre of Lucanamarca, when 69 people died, as a "mistake"). Life imprisonment seems exactly the right result.

So all in all, thumbs up to Peru on both counts.

Terrorista 'Artemio' fue condenado a cadena perpetua y deberá pagar S/. 500 millones (El Comercio)
‘Artemio’ en alegato final: "Prefiero la muerte antes que cadena perpetua" (El Comercio)
Life Sentence for Shining Path Leader (NY Times)
Peru's Shining Path leader jailed for life for terrorism (BBC - great picture in this one of Flores Hala in typical pose, mirroring Guzmán in court)

Sunday 2 June 2013

Colombia: Proyecto Víctimas

I just wanted to draw attention to Semana's Proyecto Víctimas, a special site within the magazine's website which focuses on the victims of Colombia's internal conflict. This provides loads of info on crimes, victims, history, fact and figures, and art initiatives.

Of particular relevance to this blog is the section on museums of memory, including the Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación in Bogotá, and the section on photographing the conflict.

In short, lots to learn here and interestingly laid-out (Spanish only).

Proyecto Víctimas