SEEN The background of the case, to wit:
A. In a
communication of October 18, 1985, Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López, an
Argentine citizen, former airplane mechanic in the armed forces,
currently in the Argentine Federal Prison Unit located in Bermudez, Nº
2651, PCL Buenos Aires, presented to the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights a claim alleging the Argentine Government's violation of
the provisions of Articles 7 (3); 8 (1) (2 g and h) and 8 (3); 9,
24, 25 (1) and 25 (26) and 1 and 2 of the American Convention on Human
Rights, in view of the the facto and de jure reasons set
forth in the denunciation itself, as follows:
complainant, a political prisoner designated as special by the Federal
Prison Service, who has been illegally and arbitrarily detained since
August 1977, a situation that had the semblance of normality when the
military dictatorship scourged the country, which remains unchangeable.
The denial of all appeals filed since the Constitutional Government came
to power and the decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice that confirm
this situation (copies of which are attached) constitute new violations
of human rights and amount to noncompliance with the international
commitments assumed by the Argentine State.
illegal and arbitrary nature of the denial of freedom stems clearly and
obviously from the case filed against him before the standing Court
Martial for enlisted personnel and students of the Air Force, decided
upon by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in November 1978 and
declared unappealable by the Supreme Court of Justice on April 23, 1985.
The proceedings began on April 29, 1976, when explosive devices
were discovered in tanks of six aircraft. These devices, although they
had acted, had not exploded, and therefore the aircraft were not harmed
the Government attorney proceeded to take a statement from all personnel
who had acted as Technical Duty Officer and Watch Duty Officer, and all
those who had been on duty the afternoon of the previous day, and the
troops who were on detail at the place (fs. 10 and 14, 17, 28 and V. 30,
V. 31, 33 and V. 80, 84 and 85, 87, 102 V. 103, 106 and V. 108 and 119
to 120, 123, 125, 131, 133, 137 V. 144, 145 to 148, 150 V. to 151, 155
V. 157 V. 160 V. and 161, 163 165 V. to 166 and 170 V. They all
explained the activities they had been engaged in and none had been any
suspicious movements. Among those making statements was myself, who--as
seen from this initial summary--was never alone during my time on duty.
Attached to the summary are sketches of the site showing the
location of the aircraft, the expert's report and photos.
The aforementioned statements show that the night before the act
was discovered, one of the hangar doors have been left open, and no one
had been in the Technical Duty room, from which place any irregularity
could have been seen, because it had been closed for several days.
all the statements were contested and since the explanations offered led
to discovery of the act's perpetrator, the summary proceeding in
reference was dismissed. Fifteen months after the act investigated, in
July 1977, López was abducted at the exit of his workplace, according
to a denunciation by the individual accompanying him, and this appears
in the record. Also attached is a photocopy of a preventive writ of habeas
corpus before the Federal Court of Cordoba. Then, eight days after
being kept hooded and abducted, the complainant succeeded in fleeing his
place of confinement. His relatives homes were broken into by the
security forces who, in every instance, tried to pinpoint his location.
Those who "because of what could happen to them in the near
future" asked why he was sought, were told that it was for
is a proceeding for desertion, with the explanation that López appeared
voluntarily at the Córdoba Air Force Base to make a summary statement
for assault with explosive devices. Then there was an unsworn statement
in Moron, which was not the seat of the Court, nor was it the place of
work, but rather Unit VIII. In that statement, López said he had placed
the explosives under investigation, had met with individuals belonging
to the People's Revolutionary Party, and had delivered cartridges to
members of the organization. He had done all this due to his love for a
woman Gladis Aoad, who had told him she belonged to the PRP and had
introduced him to a former fiancé, Osvaldo Oscar Rosonn. When López
was confronted with Aoad, the latter denied having engaged in political
conversations with the deponent, although she did say she had been his fiancé
and had introduced him to the person in reference.
should be said that the aforementioned Rosonn has been on a long list of
detained and missing persons in our country for more than a year. This
is not based on any record but rather on the report of CANADEP,
Appendices, list of missing persons, p. 399. The prosecutor called for a
deposition by all of Gladis Aoad's girl friends, her mother, and her
work supervisor; and all these said they were unaware that she might be
interested in politics. There are also depositions by the persons who
lived with López, work-mates, persons with whom he went bowling in the
area, and the bowling alley's owner, and all of them concur in stating
their unawareness as to whether he might be engaged in political
statement by López is not corroborated by any other evidence and it is
not consistent with the circumstances of the case, since there is no
agreement as to the events investigated. When the witnesses who had
worked with López the day of the event were called, they maintained
their statement made a year before. In view of the contradictions
existing between the confession, the statements of the witnesses, the
date of the act, the impossibility that this could have been done in the
manner confessed, a new statement was taken from him while he was held
in strict preventive detention.
new statements describing how he might have placed the explosive devices
were also inconsistent.
the sketch that had been prepared in due course, he said that "he
did not agree with it," and he drew another that lent truth to the
explanations given (pp. 345 to 347 vta). The drawing that had been made
the day of the event shows clearly that López could not have placed the
explosive devices without having been seen, due to the distance between
the place in which he performed his duties and the place in which three
of the affected aircraft were located, since he would have had to go to
another hangar and all afternoon he had been with other persons up to
the time he left the unit.
on this evidence, he was convicted of the following crimes: attested
illicit association, theft, attack on aircraft, and desertion from the
conviction was upheld by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
so notified, the complainant stated expressly for the record that he
wished to appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice. His defense counsel,
an untrained member of the military, whom he had been unable to choose
freely, did not file an appeal to that Court.
The page numbers of the record showing the facts are not indicated and
the photocopies of such record are not attached because the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces again denied my current defense counsel
access to that record by providing false information on its whereabouts.
situation was pointed out in due course to the President of the country
in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Raul
the Constitutional Government assumed office, and now having free access
to trained counsel, the following appeals were filed:
Remedy of appeal: The Military Code of Justice in force in
the country (Law 23.049) was amended by an act of Congress in February
1984. This amendment provides, in accordance with the Argentine
Constitution, that there can be no civil jurisdictions by such courts
only to try violations. Since this affected the existence of the
military establishment only the military codes make provisions by
establishing appeal of the judgments handed down by the Supreme Court of
the Armed Forces (Art. 445 bis C.J.M.), with special reference to the
fact that civilians convicted by military courts file such an appeal
within 60 days from the effective date of that law (Art. 13, law
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces denied submission of the record.
When filed, the Federal Court of La Plata did not approve the appeal, as
it understood that such an appeal is valid only in the case of persons
having future military status. After an exceptional writ alleging
arbitrary action was filed before the Supreme Court, the latter did not
consider the case, alleging that it was not sufficiently well-founded.
This decision was announced on April 24, 1985.
pertinent parts of the appeal in reference are attached (photocopy).
Habeas Corpus: Since appeal based on the invalidity of all
proceedings has not been legislated in Argentina, a writ of habeas
corpus was filed.
institution of habeas corpus has already been legally admitted as a
valid action against judgements the courts martial had handed down
against civilians. This jurisprudence was adopted by our legislators
who, in order quickly to restore the rule of law in our country,
approved law 23042, which so established it.
appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court, after a year of processing,
which alleged that it was submitted in untimely fashion, that it was
based on inadequate evidence, and that at the appropriate time, in early
1979, it had not been possible to file a special appeal based on illegal
WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE CONVENTION TO ADMIT THIS COMPLAINT:
The notification documents indicate that the Supreme Court's
resolutions were announced on April 24, 1985. Moreover, by arbitrarily
denying freedom, each moment I continue to be held means continued
violation of Art. 7.3 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Upon consideration by the
Supreme Court that the judgement convicting Antonio López has the
authority of res judicata and that objection thereto was filed in
an untimely manner, it can be stated that domestic remedies have been
exhausted, because this judgement upholds the decision on the domestic
appeal for review has not been filed, since it would be based on the
assumption of a valid proceeding, which was lacking in the case we
Reservation by the Argentine Government: The arbitrary
denial of freedom the complainant suffers and the Argentine court's
decision upholding an irregular proceeding constitute a violation of
human rights after ratification of the American Convention on Human
Rights, for which reason the irregularities of that proceeding and their
consequences are not protected by the reservations made by Argentina.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS DENOUNCED:
7, paragraph 3. NO ONE SHALL BE SUBJECT TO ARBITRARY ARREST OR
denial of his freedom stems from an irregular proceeding by unqualified
judges who acted with prejudice and were not independent, where the
defendant did not freely choose his defense counsel (the latter was
untrained, and since they also failed to fulfill their obligations, the
proceeding is absolutely void. Moreover, the judgement is arbitrary
because it did not analyze the evidence, the facts were wrongly
depicted, and he was subjected to a law that had been repealed. Further,
he was convicted of crimes whose existence was also unproved. All of
this renders the arrest and imprisonment arbitrary. The verdict of the
Argentine court, citing problems of form, avoids analysis of the matters
of substance and is a violation of this standard through the denial of
justice, because the procedural forms have been established to guarantee
8. RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL:
EVERY PERSON HAS THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD, WITH DUE PROCESS
GUARANTEES...BY A COMPETENT, INDEPENDENT, AND IMPARTIAL JUDGE OR
López was not tried by a competent court, because the military
authority can only try military violations. The contrary would be to
establish courts as a matter of privilege
is prohibited by Arts. 16 and 95 of the National Constitution
prohibiting the Executive Branch from assuming judicial duties).
Moreover, at the time of the deponent's arrest and trial, the Armed
Forces were operating jointly throughout the country, with their
commanding officers having assumed all public authority, systematically
violating human rights.
should be pointed out that so-called area of Triple M, or Sub area 16,
which corresponded to the districts of Moreno, Merlo and Moron, were
under the operational control of the Air Force, according to newspaper
articles and testimony and statements on the trial to the Military
Juntas. This is the area in which López was abducted and in which this
case was later pursued. The Palomar Air Brigade, the Court's seat, and
the III Air Brigade, based in Moron, where the complainant made a
statement and later, for security reasons, was imprisoned, are places
that have been denounced by various individuals as clandestine detention
statements are supported by the unsworn statement that we have
invalidated in 8.2.g) as in violation of Art. 18 of the Constitution and
the Convention on Human Rights. It should be indicated that other events
mentioned are not in keeping with the truth of the matter.
9. NO ONE SHALL BE CONVICTED FOR ANY ACT OR OMISSION THAT DID NOT
CONSTITUTE A CRIMINAL OFFENSE, UNDER THE APPLICABLE LAW, AT THE TIME IT
WAS COMMITTED. NOR SHALL A HEAVIER PENALTY BE IMPOSED THAN THE ONE THAT
WAS APPLICABLE AT THE TIME THE CRIMINAL OFFENSE WAS COMMITTED. IF
SUBSEQUENT TO THE COMMISSION OF THE OFFENSE THE LAW PROVIDES FOR THE
IMPOSITION OF A LIGHTER PUNISHMENT, THE GUILTY PERSONAL SHALL BENEFIT
right was violated because, upon conviction, he was subjected to a law
that had been repealed (law 21.272). In the event of there having been a
valid trial, and the perpetration of the crime having been proved, the
punishment established for such act (damage to aircraft) in Article 794
of the Military Code of Justice should have been applied: a shorter
prison term, a month to two years, through application of the most
remains to be pointed out that, after his conviction, there were also
changes in the prison terms under Art. 210 bis, attested illegal
association, and Art. 222, disclosure of military secrets, without the
penalty having been revised.
24. ALL PERSONS ARE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW. CONSEQUENTLY, THEY ARE
ENTITLED, WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION, TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW.
Argentine court violated this right when it based its denial of justice
on his status as a member of the armed forces at the time he was tried,
even denying the possibility of filing a writ of habeas corpus.
25. JUDICIAL PROTECTION: EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO A SIMPLE AND PROMPT
RECOURSE, OR ANY OTHER EFFECTIVE RECOURSE, BEFORE A COMPETENT COURT, OR
TRIBUNAL FOR PROTECTION AGAINST ACTS THAT VIOLATE ONE'S FUNDAMENTAL
RIGHTS RECOGNIZED BY THE CONSTITUTION OR LAWS OF THE STATE CONCERNED OR
BY THIS CONVENTION, EVEN THOUGH SUCH VIOLATION MAY HAVE BEEN COMMITTED
BY PERSONS ACTING IN THE COURSE OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES.
outcome of the appeals filed and the time taken to decide them is
evidence of such violation.
25.2.B. TO DEVELOP THE POSSIBILITIES OF JUDICIAL REMEDY
complaint filed also reports the Argentine State's failure to comply
with the rights mentioned in Art. 1 and 2 of the aforementioned
DUE TO THE FOREGOING, I REQUEST:
That this denunciation be admitted and that its admissibility be
That the presentation to the Argentine State be examined.
If the violations denounced persist, that this denunciation be
brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in due course.
B. In a note dated
October 28, 1985, the Commission asked the Government of the Argentine
Republic for the corresponding information, enclosing the pertinent
parts of the claim. A copy of this note was transmitted to the
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Argentine Republic to the
OAS, on that same date.
C. The complainant
was informed of the steps taken regarding his denunciation in a letter
dated October 28, 1985.
D. In a note dated
January 24, 1986, the Government of the Argentine Republic requested, in
keeping with Article 34 of the Commission's Regulations, an extension of
the deadline for sending the information requested.
E. In a note dated
January 27, 1986, the Commission granted the Argentine Government 60
days for submission of the information requested in the aforementioned
note dated October 28.
F. In a note dated
March 26 (SG Nº 48 (7-2-17/86), the Argentine Government answered the
Commission's request. This note was supplemented by several appendices
under the corresponding headings it cites. The answer reads as follows:
Government of the Argentine Republic has the honor to address the
Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
and, with regard to the communication dated October 28, 1985 on case Nº
9635 dealing with the status of the Argentine citizen, Mr. Osvaldo
Antonio López, makes available to you the following reply, without
prejudice to any other explanations the Commission may deem advisable to
On the date the crimes Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López was accused of
occurred (April 22, 1976), he was a Corporal in the Argentine Air Force.
heed of the facts and the provisions of paragraph 2, Article 108 of the
Military Code of Justice in effect at that time, he was tried by the
Military Tribunals in accordance with that jurisdiction's judicial
a proceeding carried out through file "C" Nº 248.558
(F.A.A.), he was tried, found guilty and finally sentenced on November
23, 1978 by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to 24 (twenty-four)
years in prison, plus absolute disqualification for the same period, and
demotion, as he was considered the perpetrator of the crimes of
"damage to items" assigned to the service of the Armed
Forces" (armed attack against aircraft), "illicit
association," "disclosure of national defense secrets,"
and "theft," with the aggravating circumstances of falling on
munitions, while on duty and to the detriment of the public treasury and
with extenuating circumstances for all of the acts if their perpetrator
had come forward spontaneously before the authorities became aware of
the circumstances, and of the crime of "simple desertion"
(Arts. 2 and 5 of law 21.272; 871 paragraphs 1 and 2 and 10, 536, 539,
515 paragraph 8 and 716 paragraph 1, 3; 718 of the Military Code of
Justice, 210 bis, 210 quater, 222, 162, 12, 24, 40 and 41 of the
are included of all these provisions, which were in effect at the time
of the sentence.
judgement was confirmation, with relation to the punishment with few
legal differences, of the decision of the first instance handed down on
September 21, 1978 by the Standing Court Martial for enlisted personnel,
troops and students of the Air Force.
After the Constitutional Government headed by Dr. Raúl Ricardo
Alfonsín assumed authority, the complainant files three new appeals, as
a. Appeal to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. This appeal was denied through a resolution of April 12, 1984. On the basis of Article 13 of law 23.049, the complainant addressed a complaint to the Federal Court of La Plata, which also rejected it on August 23, 1984. Finally, the Supreme Court, which is the final instance in our legal system, declared the special appeal filed to be inadmissible in view of the resolution of April 23, 1985, endorsing the opinion of the Attorney General, who argued that this appeal was not based on Article 15 of Law 48, which provides the legal requirements for appealing to the Supreme Court by way of special appeal.
Writ of habeas corpus, based on Article 1 of law 23.042, filed
with the Fourth National Federal Court in Criminal and Correctional
appeal was rejected in the first instance and also by the National
Federal Court of Appeals in Criminal and Correctional Matters of the
Federal Capital through a resolution of May 31, 1984.
special appeal was also rejected by the Supreme Court on April 23, 1985.
There were basically two reasons for the Court's decision: First, the
accused status as a member of the armed forces on the date of the events
is not covered by the provisions of Article 1 of Law 23.042, which deals
exclusively with civilians. Secondly, the Court felt that the appeal
based on the possible unconstitutionality of the military jurisdiction
and the arbitrary nature of the Supreme Council's judgement was not
filed at the proper time as required by such special appeal.
Finally, on August 21, 1985 and after his sentence had been
reduced through Law 23.070, the complainant filed a complaint with the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces based on that law, asking that his
prior time in prison be calculated in a more favorable manner, thus to
obtain a further reduction in sentence. This proceeding has not yet been
should be pointed out that the original sentence of former Corporal
Osvaldo Antonio López would have had him imprisoned until July 1, 2002;
but, by virtue of law 23.070, approved by the current constitutional
government, his term expires on February 26, 1997.
CONCLUSIONS OF THE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS THUS FAR
Argentine Government understands that, in the light of the legal
proceedings that have taken place in the case of former Argentine Air
Force Corporal Osvaldo Antonio López, there is no evidence of
noncompliance by the Argentine constitutional justice, and, therefore,
by our government with any of the standards of the American Convention
on Human Rights to which the petitioner makes reference in communication
INADMISSIBILITY OF THE PETITION
stipulated in Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on
Human Rights, and in keeping with the Commission's Regulations, the
Government of Argentina asks that the petition filed be declared
inadmissible for the following reasons:
General: As is known, immediately after assuming its
duties on December 10, 1983, the Argentine Constitutional Government
adopted several provisions aimed at full restoration of the rule of law
and unrestricted enjoyment of basic human rights and freedoms.
the many measures taken by that government, the following should be
indicated, because they are directly related to the petition in
Law 23.040, which repeals law 22.924 enacted by the previous de
facto government. It will be remembered that the latter law sought
to extend amnesty to those responsible for past human rights violations.
Law 23.042, which makes it possible to claim personal freedom by
filing a writ of habeas corpus for all civilians sentenced by
Law 23.070, which substantially reduced the sentences of
prisoners between March 24, 1976 and December 19, 1983.
Law 23.077, which expressly repealed repressive standards
established by the previous government and substantially reduced the
sentences of others. Copies of the aforementioned laws are included as
The Argentine Government understands that communication Nº 9635 does
not meet the conditions required by Article 46, paragraph a) of the
American Convention on Human Rights for admission, since the petitioner
has not exhausted the remedies the Argentine system provides for under
of this is that the petitioner has not yet filed an appeal for review of
sentence provided for in Articles 439, paragraph 4) of the Military Code
of Justice and 551, paragraph 4) of the Code of Procedure in Criminal
Matters of the federal jurisdiction and regular courts of the Federal
Capital and the national territories, copies of which are included
remedy made available by both governing bodies, provides for review of
the sentence in case of a less severe criminal law, under the first
assumption, or one that has reduced the sentence or declared that the
act is not punishable, under the second assumption. It should be pointed
out that, in addition to the provision set forth in Article 439,
paragraph 4 of the Military Code of Justice, the Procedural Code of the
federal jurisdiction and regular courts of the Federal Capital is
applied supplementally. Moreover, both standards of procedure are
correlated through the principle of application of the most favorable
criminal law contained in Article 2 of the Penal Code.
standards upon which the conviction of former Corporal Osvaldo López
was based have undergone substantial changes. Thus, for example, Law
21.272, in addition to having been partially repealed (see Laws 21.463
and 22.928), was fully repealed on August 9, 1984 by Law 23.077, which
in turn repealed the two other laws in reference.
turn, Articles 162, 210 bis and 222 of the Penal Code were also amended
by Law 23.077, calling for lighter punishment.
the appeal for review of sentence filed by the petitioner under Law
23.070 is still in process, as already explained above. By virtue of the
foregoing, the Argentine Government requests that communication 9635 be
declared inadmissible because it does not meet the conditions of Article
46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human Rights and of the
Regulations of the Honorable Commission, since the petitioner has not
exhausted the domestic remedies provided for in the Argentine legal
G. In a letter
dated March 31, 1986, the Commission sent the complainant the
information provided by the Argentine Government, with a 45-day deadline
for making his observations or comments.
H. In a cablegram
dated May 10, 1986, the complainant requested an extension of the
deadline. He was given a 30-day extension, which he was informed of in a
letter dated May 14, 1986.
I. In a
communication dated June 5, 1986, the complainant made the following
have the pleasure of sending you my observations to the Argentine
Government and of attaching complementary information:
As already indicated, it is true that Osvaldo Antonio López, at the time of the events of which he was accused (April 22, 1976), was a Corporal in the Argentine Air Force.
Argentine Government says that, in keeping with the nature of the facts
and the provisions of paragraph 2 of Article 108 of the Military Code of
Justice in effect at that time, he was tried by the military courts in
accordance with the judicial proceedings of that jurisdiction.
message 166, in which a bill was submitted to Parliament to amend the
Military Code of Justice, the President of the Nation, accompanied by
the Council of Ministers, stated the following: "The current system
of competence of the military court established by Articles 108 and 109
of the Military Code of Justice, which includes the trial of common
crimes committed at military sites or in the performance of duty
constitutes TRUE CIVIL JURISDICTION CONTRARY TO ART. 16 OF THE
CONSTITUTION. In the future, military jurisdiction must be restricted to
the trial of military crimes, that is, those not included in the Penal
Code, and disciplinary infractions." He adds later that "to be
judged for the commission of common crimes by an administrative court
consisting of peers involves both a privilege and a lack of protection,
both constitutionally inadmissible, and, therefore, it is necessary to
add an appeal that can be supported by both the prosecutor and the
defendant. This makes it "the last analysis the judges, common to
all Argentines, who judge these events in the last instance".
addition to the unconstitutional nature of Articles 108 and 109 of the
Military Code of Justice in reference, the aforementioned legislation
contains several provisions that are seriously detrimental to the right
of defense--legally declared several times--among which the following
should be indicated:
Article 197, which establish that the defense counsel must always
be an active or retired official;
Article 98, which defines defense as an act of service;
Article 366, which provides that in no case shall it be permitted
to advance in favor of the defendant any consideration detrimental to
the respect due to a superior or to lodge against them any accusation
related to facts that are not related to the case; nor shall it be
allowed to criticize or unfavorably assess the activities or political
or administrative acts of the government;
Article 367, which, in accordance with Article 664, punishes a
defense counsel who lacks due respect for a superior or who makes
assessments of government acts, with punishment of up to four years in
prison or detention;
Article 364, which says that no brief other than those expressly
allowed shall be admitted;
Article 264, which establishes that no one may attend the
presentation of testimony;
g) Article 237, which authorizes that an individual giving unsworn testimony may be urged to tell the truth, etc.
not even with these restrictions was López tried in accordance with the
legal procedure of that jurisdiction, as the Argentine Government says,
because the following provisions of the Military Code of Justice were
also violated: Article 2, which provides that military courts may not
apply punishments other than those established under law; Article 226,
which provides that the government attorney shall take steps to confirm
the crime and its circumstances even if the defendant confesses from the
very beginning to being the perpetrator; Article 240, which provides
that he may not use coercion or threats or promises of any kind against
the witness; Article 252, which indicates that, after giving an unsworn
statement, he will be allowed to appoint a defense counsel, all
subsequent procedures being void if such appointment is hindered;
290), which provides that two or more experts shall be appointed to
assess the facts;
300), which indicates the contents of the expert report; Art. 575),
which says that no tribunal or military authority may increase or
decrease punishment beyond the maximum or minimum,...nor increase it by
replacing it with others;
576, which provides that no offense may be suppressed with punishment
nor established by the law before being committed; and if the criminal
law at the time of the offense and subsequent offenses is different, the
one most favorable to the accused shall be applied, and if the
punishment has already been imposed by an executory judgement, it will
be replaced by the least severe one, etc.
irregularities, together with those that were denounced in the initial
brief, were the reasons for drafting a denunciation against those who
took part in his trial, so that his trial would be ordered for breach of
duty in accordance with the standards of Arts. 832, 833 and 179 of the
Military Code of Justice (cf. document, a copy of which we attach).
judgement handed down against members of the First Military Junta for
violation of basic human rights clearly held that retired Brigadier
General Orlando Ramón Agosti, as Commander and Chief of the Air Force,
gave his subordinates orders "that called for abductions, torture,
the physical elimination of a vast number of individuals vaguely
categorized as 'subversive,' and that such orders involved acceptance of
the idea that in their area of operations other crimes were to be
committed, such as robbery, abortions, rape and suppression of the civil
status of minors"; and it is also confirmed that he gave the order
for operations--Provincia--for the participation of Air Force personnel
in the struggle against subversion. This operational order was the
outcome of A DELEGATION TO THE ARMY TO ACT IN THE DISTRICTS OF MORON,
MERLO, MORENO (Buenos Aires Province) FOR THE AIR FORCE, which had the
main responsibility throughout the Republic for how to implement and
carry out the struggle against subversion (Judgement of the Court of
Appeals on Federal Criminal and Correctional Matters of the Federal
Capital), December 9, 1985.
468 of the Military Code of Justice provides that execution of final
judgements by military tribunals must be ordered by the President in all
instances in which the judgement imposes the death penalty or affects
senior personnel, and by the corresponding commanders in chief in
Raul Zaffaroni holds that the order to carry out the military judgement
is a legal control and that official approval by the President or the
branch commander is not of discretional compliance but rather a legal
control, a very restricted assessment of the principle of suitability
limited to exceptional cases and transitory situations, only for the
time necessary. The competent authority may in no case change the
judgement for a military crime nor arbitrarily delay the official
approval, thus safeguarding the constitutional authority of the
Executive Branch to pardon or commute punishment (Arts. 469, paragraphs
1 and 2 of the Military Code of Justice) (Zaffaroni-Cavallero, Derecho
Penal Militar, Editorial Aries, 1980, p. 523).
the purposes of this case, the official approval was given by Brigadier
Agosti through resolution 203 of May 10, 1979 (p. 503). It is obvious
that the legal control applied by Brigadier General Agosti's official
approval must be totally disqualified, it being left to the President of
the Nation to exercise certain authority provided for in Article 469 of
the Military Code of Justice.
report on the human rights situation in Argentina by the IACHR
(OEA/Ser.L/V/II.49 doc. 2011 of April 1980), on pages 223 and 224,
analyzes the action taken by the military tribunals beginning March 24,
1976, which is fully applicable to the case.
this regard, it points out that "the alleged criminals were not
allowed to choose their own defense attorneys but were assigned official
military defenders who are not licensed lawyers. These circumstances...
constituted serious infringements of the right to defense inherent in
due process." It mentions Art. 95, which provides that in no case
may the President exercise judicial functions..." With regard to
the right to an impartial trial, it points out that "the Military
Courts composed of officers involved in the repression of the same
crimes they are judging, do not offer sufficient guarantees of
impartiality. This is aggravated by the fact that in a military court,
the defense is in the hands of a military officer, meaning that the
defense is taken over by a person who is also part of, and has strong
disciplinary ties to, the same force responsible for investigating and
repressing the acts with which the accused is charged. With regard to
this parody of a trial to which López was submitted, and against which
all remedies allowed under domestic law have been exhausted, the
Argentine Government reports that "he was tried in accordance with
the judicial proceedings of this jurisdiction."
Argentine Government recognizes that, after the Constitutional
Government took office, López filed several appeals. He endeavored to
be included too, in the legal order that began to be restored in our
country. Let us see:
Law 23.049 was approved. He filed appeals based on Art. 13
against the judgement handed to him by the military tribunals. This is
the appeal referred in the afore-mentioned presidential message Nº 166.
This appeal was denied by both the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
and by the Federal Court of Appeals of La Plata. The Supreme Court of
Justice which, as the Argentine Government well points out, is the final
instance of our judicial system, declared the special filing to be
inadmissible, arguing that it was not based on Art. 15 of Law 48. In
view of the denial of freedom López was suffering due to the unfair
trial to which he had been submitted, this decision was included among
those which in similar instances that high court had disqualified
because "the pronouncements that hide the objective truth due to an
obvious ritual excess injure the requirement that justice be suitably
served as guaranteed by Art. 18 of the National Constitution,"
because trial formalities have been established to guarantee the basic
right, never to legitimize lack of proper defense, never to confirm the
arbitrary denial of freedom.
An appeal of habeas corpus was filed with the Fourth National
Federal Court for Criminal and Correctional Matters. This appeal, which,
like the previous one, would have assisted review of the arbitrary
nature of the Supreme Council's judgement, was rejected in the first
instance. The resolution was confirmed by the Federal Court on May 31,
1984, and the appeal was also rejected by the Supreme Court of Justice
on April 23, 1985. There were basically two grounds for the decision:
The military status of the accused on the date of the events
which would not include him under the provisions of Law 23.042 which
refers exclusively to civilians. This restrictive interpretation of
habeas corpus denies the purpose of that procedure: the immediate
release of anyone who may be illegally denied his freedom.
The opinion--with excessively strict formality--that the possible
unconstitutionality of the military jurisdiction and the arbitrary
nature of the judgement should have been expressed at the appropriate
time, the impossibility of timely filing not having been shown. The
Supreme Court omits the records in the file, since the record of
notification of the judgement (fs. 448) includes the request made by López
to appeal the decision, which was not done because of his lack of proper
defense without access to a trained civilian lawyer and because his
military "defense" counsel was not an attorney and/or did not
perform his duties.
the rejection of both appeals by the National Supreme Court, the
domestic appeals that might have enabled reexamination of the trial were
On the basis of Law 23.070, the Argentine Government reported
that the sentence handed down by the Supreme Court of the Armed Forces
for Osvaldo López had been reduced from July 1, 2002 to February 26,
1997. This reduction was figured at three days for every two days of
prison served. Instead of this, since this was a prisoner who had been
placed in "maximum security," it should have been computed at
two for one, which would have taken his sentence to 1995 under the
provisions of that law. In view of the violation of current legislation,
on August 21, 1985, Osvaldo López filed an appeal to the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces asking that his imprisonment be calculated
in accordance with the law. This is being processed and since it deals
with a consequence of the proceeding, it does not affect the petition
filed by Osvaldo López with the Inter-American Commission on Human
ADMISSIBILITY OF THE PETITION:
of the Argentine Government's opinions are adequate for declaring the
petition to be inadmissible. they are:
The fact that the Argentine Government has enacted a series of legal
standards aimed at restoring the rule of law and the unrestricted
enjoyment of human rights does not mean that they apply to the situation
Law 23.040 repeals Law 22.924 enacted by the de facto
government as a consequence of popular demand and the political
prisoners themselves, which include Osvaldo López, because this law
sought to extend amnesty to those responsible for the genocide that
occurred in the country.
Law 23.042 was expressly declared by the National Supreme Court
of Justice as not applicable to the case of Osvaldo López.
Law 23.070 reducing the sentence does not permit reexamination of
Law 23.007, which repealed Law 21.272 and amended the penalties
in Articles 162, 210 bis and 222, allows for filing an appeal for
review as provided for in Article 439 of the Military Code of Justice.
It reads as follows: "This remedy is provided against final
judgements by the Military Tribunals and its effect is to suspend
execution or to interrupt fulfillment thereof; and it is appropriate, in
the proper instances, to apply the most favorable penal law
retroactively." Article 551 of the Code of Penal Procedures is in
agreement with this provision.
By virtue of the latter standard, the only one of those cited by the
Argentine Government that applies to the case of Osvaldo Antonio López,
it is sought to have the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
declare the petition inadmissible because the petitioner would not have
exhausted all domestic remedies under the Argentine legal system.
opinion should be rejected, and the petition of Osvaldo López should be
admitted because the appeal for review to which the Argentine Government
refers deals exclusively with the consequences of the proceeding in
terms of the reduction of penalties or elimination of criminal figures,
but it does not deal with the invalidity of the process itself through
which the sentence was reached.
should be pointed out that at the sessions convoked by the Buenos Aires
Bar Association as a contribution to the parliamentary debate on the
"current legal status of political prisoners" the opinion as
expressed on this topic was as follows:
Standing unchanged as of this date is the appeal for review of
judgements handed down under the authority of previous adjudication,
even though they have been handed down by the National Supreme Court of
Justice for the assumptions governed by Article 551 of the Code of Penal
Procedures applicable to the federal jurisdiction. 5) None of the
assumptions of Article 551 of the afore-mentioned Code provides for the
possibility of filing an appeal for review in cases of violation or
nonobservance of the legal guarantees established in Article 8 of Law
23.054. 6) The individual study of each case of the aforementioned
political prisoners thus highlights the violation of all the cases and,
to different degrees of seriousness, that of each and every legal
guarantee recognized in Article 8 of the American Convention on Human
Rights, or Pact of San José, Costa Rica, and this situation has been
aggravated thus far by the circumstance indicated in item 5."
Argentine Government's argument that the petition should be rejected
because an appeal for review under Law 23.070 on how to calculate the
sentence is still pending is not worthy of serious consideration. A
state cannot claim confusion between due process, a decision as to guilt
or innocence, and how to figure a sentence depriving freedom.
As inferred by the Argentine
Government's answer, the judicial branch has systematically refused to
study the procedure whereby López is imprisoned, always raising up
problems of form. Thus it confirms the illegal denial of freedom to
which López is subjected, giving the authority of prior adjudication to
a spurious proceeding which ended with an arbitrary decision, in this
instance deviating from its own jurisprudence, which establishes that
"no judicial proceeding shall be maintained if its inferences wound
the community's legal and moral conscience set forth in the
Constitution's standards and principles" (decisions T. 248 - 291).
Faced with the precise violations of the
Pact of San José, Costa Rica, which were denounced, the Argentine
Government is silent. This in itself must be understood as an implicit
acceptance of each and every one of the irregularities, in accordance
with the principle of law that establishes the consequences of silence
when there is a legal obligation to answer.
The Government claims that the remedies under
domestic jurisdiction are exhausted as though it were unaware of the
differences between the proceeding and its consequences.
conspicuously points to the existence of an appeal to reduce the
sentence, but it does not apply this officially in accordance with the
procedures established in articles 439 and 576 of the Military Code of
Justice and 552 of the Code of Penal Procedures.
FACTS: By way of supplementary information, you are informed of the
following events that have occurred since the filing of this
López continues to be
denied his freedom.
The communication the
distinguished Commission sent Osvaldo López in December 1985 never
reached his attorneys because it was taken by the prison personnel.
For six months the defense lacked
access to the file prepared against López (cf. attached documentation).
Faced with the denunciation
made against those who judged López and against the person who had been
appointed as his defense counsel at the time, it was decided that the
military defense counsel was not an attorney and therefore could not
file appeals to the Supreme Court, and that consequently they could not
With regard to the
denunciation made against those who were falsely informing his current
defense counsel of the file's whereabouts, thus denying access thereto,
it was decided that this was due to excusable errors.
The petition filed by López
asking that his sentence be computed in accordance with the law,
notwithstanding the time that had elapsed, has not yet been decided
In view of all the foregoing, I ask the IACHR:
That it deems the observations called for by the Argentine
Government's answer as having been made.
That prior to deciding upon it, an advisory opinion be
requested of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning the
following matter: whether the appeal for review provided for in Art.
439, paragraph 4) of the Military Code of Justice against the final
judgements of the Military Tribunals, whose effect is to suspend
execution or to interrupt its compliance, deals exclusively with the
consequences of the proceeding and therefore precludes examination of
the proceeding itself, as held by the petitioner, or whether, to the
contrary, it constitutes the exception of inadmissibility of the
petition sought by the Argentine Government.
That the Argentine Government be requested to send a certified
copy of the judgement handed down by the National Federal Court of
Appeals in Criminal and Correctional Matters of December 9, 1985, in the
case against Jorge Rafael Videla and others, and the evidence existing
against Brigadier General Agosti and/or the Argentine Air Force.
That the Argentine Government be asked to submit certified copies
of the minutes for the second meeting of the National Chamber of
Deputies held on 16/12/83.
That the Argentine Government be asked to submit certified
photocopies of cases pursued by the Standing Court Martial for enlisted
personnel, troops and students, which as of 18 December, 1985, consisted
of 547 pages in three volumes (files "L" 1362/78 "C"
and files 1361/78 "C" 12C of 79 pages and Letter "L"
1361/78 Cd 8 "c" with 19 pages), and in particular photocopies
of decisions 8593 and 8636 of the Office of the Attorney General of the
Armed Forces, of November 5, 1985 and December 26, 1985 and Number
15.761 of the Office of the Judge Advocate of the Armed Forces, of March
6, 1986, which were removed by resolution of the Supreme Council of the
That the Argentine Government be requested to submit certified
photocopies of the following files: López, Osvaldo Antonio/habeas
corpus, case 4541, filed with the Fourth National Federal Court of the
First Instance in Criminal and Correctional Matters, Secretariat Nº 11,
Moreno on complaint in file of Osvaldo López on appeal of case Nº 4596
filed with the Federal Court of La Plata.
That the Commission employ its good offices with the Argentine
Government so that the violations denounced will cease and, in the event
they continue, that it employ its good offices with the Inter-American
Court of Justice.
Since the communication that had been sent me reached my
attorneys very late, that I be considered to be legally domiciled in
their office at Calle Tacuarí 119 4 Piso "P" (1071) Buenos
That Dr. Juan Méndez, domiciled at 739 8th Street, S.E.,
Washington, D.C. USA 20003, is expressly authorized to consult the file
and to request copies thereof.
In a note dated June 17, 1986, the Commission transmitted the
complainant's observations to the Government of the Argentine Republic,
to present within 30 days any information or answer it might deem
appropriate. A copy of this communication was conveyed to the
Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the OAS on that same day. Also,
in a letter dated June 17, 1986, the complainant was informed of the
steps taken concerning his observations.
In a note dated July 17, 1986 (SG 157 (7.2.17), the Argentine
Government requested an extension of the deadline set for sending its
remarks and information. That note explains the reason for the request,
indicating that "it is due to the fact that remedies under domestic
jurisdiction described in my note DG 48 (7.2.17)/86, whose
substantiation has been requested recently by the petitioner's defense
attorneys, are in process."
In a note dated July 25, 1986, the Commission informed the
Argentine Government of a thirty-day extension.
In a note dated September 11, 1986, (SG 210 - 7.2.17), the
Argentine Government provided the following additional information:
prejudice to the additional explanations the Commission may deem
advisable to request, I am pleased to make the following information
available to you:
As stated in item B. (Specific) of paragraph IV (Inadmissibility
of the petition), in the note dated March 26, 1986 concerning the case
of Mr. Osvaldo A. López, the Argentine Government reconfirms its
opinion that such communication does not meet the requirements of
Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Proof of this is as follows:
At the present time there is before the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces an appeal for review filed by the petitioner on August 8,
1986, as provided for in Article 439, paragraph 4) of the Military Code
of Justice, in accordance with Article 551, paragraph 4) of the Code of
Procedures in Criminal Matters.
In view of presentation of the afore-mentioned appeal for review
and pursuant to Article 441 of the Military Code of Justice, the
Minister of Defense requested an opinion from the Judge Advocate General
of the Armed Forces, who decided as follows on August 28, 1986:
in mind that Law 21272 has been repealed by Article 1 of Law 23077,
which prima facie would call for application of Article 827 of
the Military Code of Justice (L. A6), which establishes a lighter
sentence, I believe that, in accordance with the provisions of Article
439, paragraph 4) of the latter legal body, it would be appropriate to
consider the appeal in reference.
Subsequently, the Minister of Defense referred the files in
reference to the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
with the following provision:
accordance with the opinion handed down by the Judge Advocate General of
the Armed Forces, I refer these records related to the appeal for review
filed by former Air Force Corporal Osvaldo Antonio López concerning the
judgement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on November 23,
1978, requesting that it be processed on a preferential basis.
It must be stressed that the decision of the Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces may also be appealed before the competent Federal Court
and, when appropriate, before the National Supreme Court. Finally, it is
pointed out that the proceedings under way allow the assumption that
this situation will be cleared up shortly.
The Argentine Government understands and so explains in Section I
that the communication on case Nº 9635 concerning the status of Mr.
Osvaldo Antonio López must be declared inadmissible because it does not
meet the requirements of Article 46, paragraph a) of the American
Convention on Human Rights and those of the Commission's Regulations.
the preceding reasons, the Argentine Government does not go into an
analysis of other aspects of the communication related to the case of
Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López, as it stated already in Item III of the
reply of March 26, 1986.
the complainant, in a communication dated August 21, 1986, reported on
the progress of the new developments related to his case before the
civilian as well as military legal authorities. These reports are as
it can be inferred from the Argentine Government's reply to the
distinguished Commission that the remedy of review under the most
favorable penal law could be a suitable mechanism for recovering my
freedom, I filed such an appeal before the Federal Court of La Plata,
without thereby waiving my right to review of the entire proceeding. As
I had stated in my previous presentations, the mechanisms under domestic
jurisdiction for this latter right have been exhausted.
to a certified judgement, a copy of which I attach, the Federal Court of
La Plata rejected this presentation, declaring itself incompetent. For
this purpose, it claims that the appeal for review under the most
favorable law must be filed before the Supreme Council of the Armed
the Federal Court declined its jurisdiction in favor of an
administrative tribunal, which, as such, is subordinate to the Executive
Branch. This resolution is in conflict with the provisions of the
National Constitution that establish the representative republican form
of government, prohibiting the Executive Branch from usurping judicial
functions (Arts. C. N.). It is at the same time a new violation of the
provisions of Art. 8. 1) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
resolution is one further demonstration that the judges not only avoid
taking up review of the erroneous proceedings conducted when a genocidal
military junta usurped power in our country but that, moreover, in the
case of political prisoners, such as my case, they refuse to apply
current legislation that establishes the remedy of review of penalties
under the most favorable law or different ways to compute penalties.
with this communication was a copy of the decision denying the appeal
for review by the Federal Court of La Plata filed by the complainant
under the terms of Art. 551, paragraph 4 of the Code of Military
Procedures (C.P.M.) against the judgement of the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces dated November 23, 1978, which sentenced Mr. Osvaldo
Antonio López to 24 years in prison with the additional penalties of
absolute disqualification for the same length of time and demotion.
In a note dated September 16, the Commission transmitted this
information to the complainant, requesting his observations.
In a communication dated October 7, 1986, the complainant set
forth further observations to the Argentine Government's comments. The
text reads as follows:
reference to your letter of September 16, last, in which you informed us
of the contents of the note dated September 11, 1986 from the Argentine
Government, we wish to convey to you the following observations:
The contents of the appeals for review of the consequences of the
spurious trial to which López has been submitted reaffirm the opinion
that domestic channels for obtaining annulment of the decision have been
exhausted. The answer itself from the Argentine Government shows that
the civilian tribunals have refused to review the case as a whole,
citing reasons of form.
The appeal filed before the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
for review of the sentence in accordance with Art. 439 of the Military
Code of Justice is subsequent to the appeal filed for the same purpose
before the Federal Court of La Plata, which the latter rejected.
The opinion handed down by the Judge Advocate General means that
this requirement only allows review of the sentence through application
of a more favorable law. In the contrary sense, it does not allow review
of the merits on which the sentence is based. Despite this, if the Judge
Advocate's opinion were heeded, the sentence could be reduced from 24
years to 15 years, and if the system of computing two days for each day
spent in prison during the military dictatorship were applied, López
would recover his freedom immediately.
We include herewith a photocopy of the opinion of the Prosecutor
of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which asks that the 24-year
sentence be reduced to 22 years. It also follows from this opinion that
it is still believed that "it is appropriate to take, subject to
the facts declared proven, a new approach in keeping with current
legislation." It is obvious, as we held, that "the facts
declared proven" are not going to be reviewed, and this is true to
the extent that the Prosecutor is not at all engaged in the questioning
the grounds for that declaration.
The rebuttal of the Judge Advocate General and the Prosecutor of
the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appears in a document presented
by Captain (Army Retired) José Luis D'Andrea Mohr, Military Counsel,
with the cooperation of Drs. Moreno and Carsen, on 30/9/86, a photocopy
of which we include and ask to be included as part of this document.
Although the decision is subject to review, this is to be done by
the Federal Court of La Plata, whose slight willingness to intervene has
already been made clear to your Commission. If it were necessary to
appeal to the National Supreme Court of Justice, we should now merely
remark that the case of another person held for committing political
crimes, Héctor Gerónimo López, for more than a year and a half has
been pending decision.
g) We include for the Commission's study the article published in "El Periodista" on this case.
We repeat, in view of the positions taken by both parties, our
request for an advisory opinion by the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights as to whether the appeal pending for review of the sentence
fulfills the requirement for admissibility in Art. 46, paragraph a) of
the American Convention on Human Rights and concordant provisions of
that Commission's Regulations.
with the communication in reference was a copy of the appeal for review
filed by the complainant with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in
view of the refusal of the Federal Court of La Plata, for substantive
reasons, to admit this appeal. This new appeal for review also
requested the designation of a military co-defense counsel, and the
prisoner's immediate release was requested.
In a note dated March 19, 1987 (Vs.11 (7.2.17), the Government of
the Argentine Republic supplied the following information concerning the
case: that on March 5, 1987, the Federal Court of La Plata had allowed a
special appeal to the National Supreme Court of Justice.
The Commission considered Case 9635 at its 69th session on the
basis of the Argentine Government's information mentioned above and
decided to postpone its decision thereon until a clarification had been
obtained from that Government concerning the note of March 19 on the
scope of the appeal for review, because there was a doubt as to whether
that appeal would enable the Supreme Court of Justice to review Mr. López'
trial (with regard to the substance of the matter) whereby he was
sentenced, or whether the issue would be an appeal for review of the
sentence through application of the most favorable law.
At its 69th session (March 1987), the Commission decided to
address a note to the Argentine Government asking it for clarification
of the matters in reference.
In keeping with that decision, the Commission addressed a note to
the Government of the Argentine Republic on March 31, 1987.
In a note dated April 30, 1987 (SG Nº 137 (7.2.17)/87), the
Argentine Government enclosed a copy of the judicial order issued in the
López case whereby the "special appeals filed" by the defense
were allowed. Included with this judicial order was a copy of the order
handed down by the Appellate Court of La Plata, which provides as
follows: i) to declare the appeal filed by the party inadmissible and
ii) to confirm the declaration of incompetence to deal with
rectification of the sentence's computation as requested by the
In a communication of May 4, 1987, the complainant again
addressed the IACHR on occasion of the aforementioned appeal for review
and stated the following:
appeal by my defense counsel, it is now up to the National Supreme Court
of Justice, which has had the case before it for two months, to decide.
I am afraid that once again my right to freedom will be postponed. I
continue in the same situation that I was in two years ago when I turned
to the IACHR. On the two previous occasions, in which my proceeding
reached the National Supreme Court of Justice, that Court refused to
review it for various reasons. Currently, in view of the latest events
in the country, I have the well-founded fear that the Court will
postpone sine die decision on my case, or that, claiming
the same reasons as the Federal Court of La Plata, it will refuse to
intervene in the appeal before it for consideration or, at best, it will
reduce my sentence as requested by the Prosecutor and order my immediate
release without going into review of the proceeding itself, leaving as
proven events that never occurred and that served to uphold my unjust
regard to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I formally
and expressly petition that it make itself available to the parties
in order to reach a friendly solution based on respect for the human
rights established in the Pact of San José, specifically: the right to
personal liberty (Art. 7); the right to a fair trial (Art. 8); the right
to judicial protection (Art. 25) which, using the terms of this latter
provision, allows me through a simple, prompt and effective recourse to
protect my basic right to immediate freedom and to a fair trial, which
rights are recognized by the National Constitution, the law and the
American Convention and which are being violated day by day as long as I
am not released and as long as the trial that led to my unjust sentence
is not reviewed.
1. That in the
current stage of steps taken in the case before the Commission, both the
petitioner and the Government of the Argentine Republic have had ample
opportunity to express their views in order for the Commission to reach
a decision on the complaint's admissibility, bearing in mind that the
complainant has been deprived of his freedom for nine (9) years.
2. That, prima
facie, the basic matter of importance now is to determine whether
the remedies under domestic jurisdiction of the Argentine Republic have
been exhausted, in order to decide on the admissibility of the
denunciation, since the impediment provided for in Article 46, paragraph
1, a) of the American Convention on Human Rights, and in Article 37,
paragraph 1 of the Commission's Regulations has been overcome.
3. That, actually,
the arguments and terms of reference presented to the Commission by the
complainant and the individuals and entities contributing to the
denunciations, as well as those presented by the Argentine Government,
have focused on the problem of the exhaustion of domestic remedies.
4. That, as the
terms of reference presented indicated, the complainant has filed,
although with unfavorable results, the remedies of appeal, complaint,
special appeal for illegal action, habeas corpus and special appeal to
the National Supreme Court of Justice, whereby the domestic measures
that could be available to the complainant would have been exhausted.
5. That the
Argentine Government disagrees, pointing out that in this case there has
still been no filing of the "Appeal for Review of the penalty
provided for in Articles 439, Paragraph 4, of the Military Code of
Justice and 55l, Paragraph 4, of the Code of Procedures in Penal Matters
for the Federal Jurisdiction and the Ordinary Tribunals of the Federal
Capital and of the National Territories" (Note SG-48, cit. supra,
p.4), for which reason it believes that the complaint is inadmissible
because it does not meet the "conditions required by Article 46,
paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human Rights" (Note
SG-48, p.5, cit.)
6. That with
regard to presentation of the appeal for review the Argentine Government
indicates, the complainant explains in his petition why such appeal
would not apply, stating the following:
Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Upon consideration by the
Supreme Court of Justice that the judgement convicting Antonio López
has the authority of prior adjudication and that objection thereto was
filed in untimely manner, domestic remedies have been exhausted, because
this judgement firms up the decision from the domestic standpoint of the
proceeding in which the verdict was handed down.
appeal for review, has not been filed, since it would be based on the
assumption of a valid proceeding, which was lacking in the case we
7. The appeal for
review to which the Argentine Government refers would deal
"exclusively with the consequences of the proceeding in terms of
the reduction of penalties or elimination of criminal figures, but it
does not deal with the invalidity of the process in itself through which
the sentence is reached," as the complainant indicates in his
observations (cit. supra, p.6).
8. That, despite
the foregoing, the complainant filed with the Federal Court of La Plata
an appeal for review of the sentence, without thereby waiving his right
to review of the entire proceeding, and the Federal Court of that city,
in Resolution l0 of July l986 (File 306), rejected the appeal, declaring
itself incompetent based on the fact that the appeal for review through
the most favorable law "must be filed with the Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces," whereby, the issue would be a denial of
jurisdiction in favor of an administrative tribunal which, as such, is
subordinate to the Executive Branch.
9. That, in this
regard, it is obvious to point out the statement by the Buenos Aires Bar
Association (September l985) on the "Current Juridical Status of
Political Prisoners," to the effect that:
Standing unchanged as of this date is the appeal for review of
judgements handed down under the authority of former adjudication, even
though they have been handed down by the National Supreme Court of
Justice for the assumptions governed by Article 551 of the Code of Penal
Procedures applicable to the Federal Jurisdiction.
That, moreover, due to the context of the denunciation and
observations presented by the complainant, assumed violations of the
right to judicial guarantees which are the bases of due process are
inferred. Among such assumed violations, the following are indicated:
a. The same events
had been the subject of investigation by the competent military
authorities themselves, and the persons involved, among them Mr. Osvaldo
López, had been declared not responsible;
b. The accused was
sentenced without sufficient evidence and only on the basis of a
"confession" made under irregular conditions and without the
presence of a defense attorney, which happened more than 15 months after
the investigation mentioned in item a), after Mr. López had been
abducted in July 1977 and detained in a non prison center, as was Unit
VIII (Morón), a place denounced as a clandestine detention center;
c. The judgement
did not analyze the evidence. It applied a law that had been repealed
(Law 21.272), and finally, the accused was given a heavier sentence for
acts that were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
d. The accused did
not have the appropriate assistance by trained counsel, and when he was
notified of the judgement and put expressly on the record that he would
appeal that judgement to the National Supreme Court of Justice, the
untrained official attorney did not file the afore-mentioned appeal in a
timely manner or at any other time, leaving the individual convicted
without proper defense.
That the proceeding under which Mr. Osvaldo López was sentenced
was conducted with complete lack of constitutional guarantees, as is
tacitly recognized by the Government of the Argentine Republic itself,
in Note SG-48, cit. p.3, upon indicating that "as is known,
immediately after assuming its duties on December 10, 1983, the
Argentine Constitutional Government adopted several provisions aimed at
full restoration of the rule of law and unrestricted enjoyment of basic
human rights and freedoms."
That as part of the work of institutional renewal by the current
Government of the Argentine Republic, measures have been proposed that
are directly involved with the military legislation under which the
trial of Mr. Osvaldo López was carried out. In this sense, it is
necessary to emphasize what appears in the case record;
a. Law 23.040,
which repeals Law 22.924 enacted by the previous de facto
Government. It is brought to mind that the latter law sought to give
amnesty to those responsible for the human rights violations that had
occurred in the past.
b. Law 23.042,
which establishes the possibility of claiming personal freedom by filing
a writ of habeas corpus for all civilians sentenced by
c. Law 23.070,
which substantially reduced the sentences of the prisoners between March
24, 1976 and December 10, 1983.
d. Law 23.977,
which expressly repealed repressive standards established by the
previous Government and substantially reduced the sentences of others.
Included as an appendix are copies of the afore-mentioned laws.
That the Federal Court of La Plata, upon allowing the complainant
a special appeal before the National Supreme Court of Justice, expressed
to the IACHR the doubt as to whether such appeal would enable the Court
to review the proceeding as regards the substance of the matter or
whether the issue would be only an appeal to review the sentence,
applying a more favorable law but upholding the judgement of the
military tribunals whereby Mr. Osvaldo A. López was sentenced to a
longer deprivation of freedom.
That, in the Commission's opinion, the Argentine Government's
answer dated April 30, 1987, does not explain the scope of the appeal
pending before the Supreme Court, as the Commission asked that
Government to do in the note dated March 31, 1987.
That if the appeal were to review only the sentence, it would not
result in redressing the juridical and moral injury stemming from a
proceeding presumedly invalidated by serious irregularities which, for
that reason, should be reopened so that the convicted individual would
have a procedural opportunity to show his innocence or, otherwise, for
his guilt to be established beyond any doubt.
That more than a reasonable period has elapsed for the domestic
remedies the Argentine Republic established for the defense of human
rights to have been exhausted and, in this instance, for the rescission
of decisions or judgements involving violation of the legal guarantees
provided for under the Constitution and protected by the American
Convention (Art. 8) together with the right to personal liberty (Art. 7)
and, moreover, every individual's right to a "simple and prompt
trial, or any other effective recourse, before a competent court or
tribunal for protection against acts that violate one's fundamental
rights recognized by the Constitution or laws of the state concerned or
by this Convention, even though such violation may have been committed
by persons acting in the course of their official duties."
That, therefore, the provisions of Article 46, paragraph 2.c) of
the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 37, paragraph 2.c)
of the Commission's Regulations do apply.
Bearing in mind the provisions of Articles 46, paragraph 1, a) of
the Convention and Article 37.1) of the Commission's Regulations,
despite the fact that a special appeal on the case is pending before the
Supreme Court of the Argentine Republic.
That the Commission, in its Report on the Situation of Human
Rights in Argentina (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.49, doc.19, of 11 April, 1980, pages
223 and 224), upon analyzing the performance of the military tribunals
beginning March 1976, stated that "...the alleged criminals were
not allowed to choose their own defense attorneys but were assigned
official military defenders who were not licensed lawyers. These
circumstances ...were serious infringements of the right to defense
inherent in due process. These situations violate basic provisions of
the Constitution. One of these is Article 18 dealing with due process...
and Article 95 ... which provides the following: 'In no case may the
President exercise judicial functions...'" And with regard to the
right to an impartial trial, it pointed out the following: "...the
Military Courts composed of officers involved in the repression of the
same crimes they are judging, do not offer guarantees of sufficient
impartiality. This is aggravated by the fact that in a military court,
the defense is in the hands of a military officer, meaning, that the
defense is taken over by a person who is also part of, and has strong
disciplinary ties to, the same force responsible for investigation and
repressing the acts with which the accused is charged."
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, RESOLVES:
1. To declare
admissible the communication dealing with Case 9635 presented by Mr.
Osvaldo Antonio López.
2. To declare
that, in application of the provisions of Articles 48, paragraph 1.f) of
the Convention and 45 of the Regulations, it places itself at the
disposal of the parties in this case with a view to reaching a friendly
settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human rights
recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, in view of the
fact that the positions and intentions of the parties have been
sufficiently clarified and, in the Commission's opinion, the matter, due
to its nature, lends itself to settlement through this procedure.
3. To convey this resolution to the Government of the Argentine Republic and to the complainant.