Case 2271 – Nélida Azucena SOSA DE FORTI
This case is
unique, and for that reason the IACHR, on November 18, 1978, at its 45th
session, adopted the following resolution:
1. The following denunciation was
made in a communication of May 29, 1977:
NÉLIDA AZUCENA SOSA DE FORTI, C.I. 9.728,076, and five children,
detained 2.18.77 Ezeiza, had boarded an Aerolíneas Argentinas plane,
flight 284, to Venezuela. Documentation in order. Pilot of plane,
immigration official, take them off plane because of problem with
documentation. Detained by group of individuals in civilian clothes,
armed, driving sedan automobiles. Imprisoned seven days without
charge. Children separated from mother, abandoned in city of Buenos
Aires, informed mother taken to Tucumán. Whereabouts of mother
2. In a telegram of June 13, 1977,
the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of this denunciation to
the Government of Argentina, and requested it to provide the
3. The Government of Argentina
responded by telegram of June 1977, but failed to refer to the events
reported to it, and stated as follows:
Report that competent national authorities have not record of
detention of Mrs. Nélida Azucena Sosa de Forti. Efforts are underway
to determine her whereabouts. Any further information on the matter
will be reported immediately.
4. The pertinent parts of the
Government’s response were transmitted by letter dated June 27, 1977
to the complainant whose comments were invited on the reply.
5. In a note of June 39, 1977, the
Commission acknowledged receipt of the information provided by the
Government, and sent further details on the pertinent parts:
Mrs. Nélida Azucena Sosa de Forti, an Argentine citizen, C.I.
9.728.076 P.F., was detained on February 18, 1977 in the international
airport of Ezeiza.
On the day indicated, Mrs. Forti and her five children, arrived at the
airport… at approximately 7.34 am, went through all the
pre-embarking procedures, such as immigration and checking in her
baggage, with no problems, and boarded a plane, Aerolíneas Argentinas
flight Nº 284 to Venezuela, departing at 9.00 am.
They had all the necessary documents, including parental consent and
the family visa, officially communicated to the Venezuelan Consulate
in Buenos Aires on February 14, 1977, in official telegram Nº 003410.
Once they were settled in their seats on the plane, at approximately
8.45… the announcement was made that Alfredo Forti (16 year old son)
was asked to come to the cabin. The son was received by the Captain,
the immigration official who had dealt with him a few moments earlier
in the airport, two on-board officials and one other uniformed person.
The pilot asked him about his father and he explained that his father
was in Venezuela awaiting the arrival of the family. The pilot then
asked him to call his mother, and the son returned with her. The pilot
explained to the mother that she would not be able to travel because
“there was a problem with her documentation.”
The pilot told them “that he would proceed to disembark them with
their baggage.” This was done and they were taken back into the same
bus that had taken them to the plane with the other passengers. A
group of individuals, who were in civilian clothes, even though armed,
were waiting for them in the bus. They were taken to the public
vehicle entrance and transferred to two sedan cars.
Stopped along a solitary road, the six were taken out of the cars and
were blindfolded; they then were taken to a prison establishment,
where they remained for seven days. At no time was any reason given
for their being incarcerated, nor was any authorization shown.
On the seventh day, the children were taken away from their mother and
abandoned in Buenos Aires, close to a house that they knew, and as on
the previous occasion, they were blindfolded. Before they were left,
the person whom the others treated as the leader told them that their
mother would be taken to Tucumán and that she would be returned to
them within a week.
No further news has been received of the mother’s whereabouts since
that time, nor of the reason for her detention, the causes neither
behind it, nor of the authorities that ordered it and that still
deprive her of her freedom. All the efforts of Cáritas in Venezuela
and of the Venezuelan Embassy in Buenos Aires to ascertain her
whereabouts have been fruitless.
However, an arrangement was made through the Embassy of Venezuela to
transfer the children to Venezuela where they are now with their
father, a surgeon who is in the service of the Government of
6. In a communication dated July
15, 1977, the person making the denunciation challenges the reply from
the Government of Argentina in the following terms:
There is no doubt at all that Nélida Azucena Sosa de Forti was
detained by official security agencies, because the family had to pass
through at least five military control points in order to get to the
airport, and some more within Ezeiza airport before reaching the
plane; a uniformed armed official made them leave the plane in the
presence of Captain Gómez Villafañe, to whom it is assumed that he
identified himself. Moreover, the international airport of Ezeiza is
under military control and the captain of a plane cannot be uninvolved
in the operation.
Also on the airplane were Mr. Juan Galli Coll, a senior official of
the Ministry of the Treasury of Venezuela, who is ready to declare
that he was a witness to the occurrence, and Mr. Daniel Mazzola, an
Argentine citizen who was on a business trip.
The uniformed, armed official told her that there was an arrest
warrant from Tucumán, which is further proof that she was detained.
Another point that should be taken into account is the fact that when
my children were brought by a Venezuelan priest, who made the trip for
this purpose, they were under escort by the Federal Police and despite
the fact that they identified themselves, entry was not easy, which
proves that in fact, only officials of the Armed Forces or Federal
Police could have detained her.
7. In a note of September 29,
1977, the Government of Argentina replied to the request for
information, again failing to refer to the statements made in the
pertinent parts of the denunciation:
D. Persons about whom there are no
records of detention and who are the subject of a police search by the
Ministry of the Interior.
139. SOSA DE FORTI, Nélida Azucena
8. In notes dated October 12 and
10, 1977, the complainant repeats his accusation with regard to the
Government’s reply, and reports that he has learned unofficially
that Mrs. Forti is being detained in the Villa Devoto jail in Buenos
9. In a communication dated
February 7, 1978, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of
the observations made by the complainant to the Government. The
Government has made no reply to date.
10. In a communication dated May 16, 1978, the
complainant sent a new detailed declaration to the Commission, giving
background information about the detention; an account of the six days
during which the family was detained, photocopies of all the documents
related to the trip, and also of the place where the incident took
place reconstructed by some of the persons detained.
11. The Commission has in its possession the
declaration of eyewitnesses to the arrest aboard the Aerolíneas
Argentinas plane, and a statement from the person who effected the
transfer of the Forti children to Venezuela.
12. In a communication dated September 26,
1978, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of the additional
information, and of the aforementioned testimony to the Argentine
Government. The Government of Argentina has not responded to this
1. In the light of the preceding
background information and of the documents in the possession of the
Commission, there exists proof as to the circumstances, the place, the
time and the procedure used in the detention of Mrs. Nélida Azucena
SOSA de Forti and five of her children, from which it is deduced that
the detention took place in public in the International Airport of
Ezeiza by authorities of the Argentine Government;
2. The evidence in the possession
of the Commission indicates the truth of the events denounced;
3. Despite the foregoing, the
Government of Argentina has not responded to date to the events
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
1. That there is sufficient
evidence to show that Mrs. Nélida Azucena de Forti and her children
were illegally detained by agents of the Argentine Government on
February 18, 1977, and that Mrs. De Forti has not yet reappeared.
2. To declare to the Government of
Argentina, that these events constitute very serious violations of the
right to life, liberty, and personal security (Article I); the right
to a fair trial (Article XVIII); the right to protection from
arbitrary arrest (Article XXV); and the right to due process of law
(Article XXVI) of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
3. To recommend to the Government:
a) that it take immediate measures to release Mrs. Nélida Azucena
Sosa de Forti; b) that it sanction in accordance with Argentine law
those responsible for the events denounced; c) that it undertake a
complete, impartial investigation of the events denounced, and d) that
it inform the Commission within a maximum of 30 days, as to the
measures taken to implement the recommendations in this Resolution.
4. To forward this Resolution to
the Government of Argentina and to the persons filing the
5. To include this Resolution in
the Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of
American States, pursuant to Article 9(bis), paragraph c.iii of the
Statute of the Commission.
Government presented its observations in a note dated October 17,
1979, after the term established in the resolution had expired. The
Government’s reply in several of its more important paragraphs
states as follows:
From the earlier investigation it can be determined that the persons
who appeared at Ezeiza Airport and stated that they belonged to the
Army, among them the supposed officer who led them, were not part of
that force, or any other force, or any security force, either national
or provincial. Furthermore, it was proven that there were no authentic
requests or warrants issued by competent authorities, either military
or civilian, for the arrest of the Forti couple.
Following inquiries made to clarify the events and its motive, it
could also be established that the Forti couple had dealt with
elements belonging to terrorist organizations in the Province of
Tucumán and had collaborated in health and logistic matters with
them. Mrs. Forti had become very involved with members of the “Montoneros”
in 1976, and decided to cease those activities and leave the country
for fear of being discovered. This would have been the reason for the
group considering her a deserter and therefore ordering her “detention”.
Presumably Mrs. Forti’s trip to Buenos Aires may have been motivated
by her attempt to avoid being captured. However, the events that
occurred at the airport on the day she was to leave the country show
that the organization had to know those circumstances, and thus were
able to execute the order given by their leaders.
In effect, only this hypothesis can explain how a group of persons,
virtually on a suicide mission, appeared under the color of authority,
to retain someone who sought to break its rules and since the group
was declining, it needed to show its members a powerful ability to
punish, even if in doing so it had to risk several of its members.
Later events, shown oddly enough to the children of the “deserter”,
explain the second aspect of this action; to show an assumed “secret
prison” on the basis of which the Argentine Government could be
charged with “detention”. This way, it achieved a two-fold
objective: in internal affairs, to intimidate those who wanted to drop
out of the organization, and in external affairs, to cause the public
authorities to lose prestige by charging them with the arrest of a
person who obviously was not under the jurisdiction of any authority.
Clearly, the means used, as well as the “modus operandi”, were
good enough to deceive the airport chief in charge. Even the victims
themselves, it seems, did not object to the presumed “detention”
in the belief that it was truly an official procedure.
Note also that Mrs. Forti had obtained her passport several days in
advance from federal police authorities, without objection or
questioning, and had passed through the control point of the National
Migration Office at Ezeiza Airport without any problem. Obviously, if
she was going to be detained, this could have been accomplished when
she presented her travel document to the police authorities. In any
event, this would have prompted a review of any file kept on her.
In fact, the circumstances in which Mrs. Sosa de Forti and her
children were deprived of their liberty rules out any indirect
intervention by an official agency. The use of forged documents, under
the color of authority, reference to a non existing detention order,
the urgency with which the “procedure” was effected, and the
totally unusual place and timing, are unmistakable signs of a criminal
act intended to mislead the airport authorities and which succeeded in
so doing. The unfolding of an illegal episode which has the appearance
of legality is typical of all types of crimes: the daring maneuver to
bring off the deception.
wishes to make several remarks about this reply from the Argentine
First of all, it is
noteworthy that the assumed tie between Mrs. Forti and the forces of
subversion is mentioned for the first time in this note which comes more
than two years after the transmission of the claim to the Government and
after the date set in the IACHR resolution had expired. It is noted that
in this case, because of its very special features, repeated requests
were made before and during the on-site observation to gain the
attention of the highest authorities of the Argentine Republic. At no
time did these authorities even insinuate the possibility that the
kidnapping of Mrs. Forti and her children might have been the work of
subversive groups. Another point that calls our attention is that at no
time did the IACHR receive information about investigations made to
determine how this kidnapping took place.
Argentine Government’s version of the facts is not credible. It is
very difficult to believe that a group of irregulars, supposedly
responsible for this crime, would have selected such a heavily guarded
place as Ezeiza International Airport to punish Mrs. Forti, or would
have hoped to kidnap her once she was aboard an airplane that was ready
to take off. It is also very difficult to believe that, given the
present situation in the Argentine Republic, Aerolíneas Argentinas
personnel and all the other officials who participated in, or witnessed
these events, would have been deceived by persons belonging to irregular
groups or organizations. One must keep in mind the strict security
measures that normally exist in international airports and which are
undoubtedly followed at Ezeiza Airport at the time the events occurred.
That airport was and still is under strict military control. Its
director was and is, an air force officer, and to go into Ezeiza
Airport, it was and is, necessary to identify oneself at several control
points. The testimony of the Forti children clearly shows all the
procedures and controls to which they were subjected when, after being
released, they returned to Ezeiza Airport, accompanied by a Venezuelan
priest, for the purpose of traveling to Venezuela to be with their
its on-site observation, the IACHR received very important testimony on
this case from a detainee who, for obvious reasons, was not identified.
Even without being questioned about this case, the person declared that
among the many persons with whom he was detained at the start of his
captivity (today he is acknowledged to be a prisoner) was Mrs. Forti in
Tucumán. At that time, Mrs. Forti was in deplorable physical shape
because of the mistreatment to which she had been subject. Later on this
prisoner was transferred to another prison and lost contact with her.
After examining the
reply of the Argentine Government, the Commission decided that the
reconsideration request was out of order since the reply fails to
provide any significant new information to contradict the information
available to the Commission.
The disappearance of defense lawyers is an extremely serious development
which stands in the way of the free exercise of the legal rights and
guarantees of the persons detained. There are several cases of
disappeared lawyers in Argentina; some are the following:
Case 3463 – Daniel Víctor ANTOKOLETZ
According to the
complaint received by the IACHR:
Daniel Víctor ANTOKOLETZ, Argentine, lawyer, born in February 22,
1937, Federal Police I.D. 6.277.901, Individual Registration Booklet
4.676.964, domiciled at Guatemala 4860, 6th Floor,
Apartment 27, Buenos Aires, married.
Dr. Daniel Víctor Antokoletz is a distinguished lawyer, a university
professor, a member of the Inter-American Institute of International
Legal Studies of the Organization of American States, and a Charter
member of the Argentine Association of International Law. He has taken
several courses and has published various articles and papers in his
Dr. Antokoletz, a person of firm democratic convictions, in the
exercise of his professional work and aside from any partisan leanings—defended
political prisoners and persons subject to persecution. His work was
naturally limited to the area of trial defense without taking into
account the ideology of the defendant.
On November 10, 1976 at 8.30 in the morning, six heavily armed
civilians, who identified themselves as members of the “Security
Forces” and “Joint Forces”, broke into Dr. Antokoletz’s home.
After forcing the occupants to lie on the floor, they beat Dr.
Antokoletz and handcuffed his and his wife’s hands behind their
backs. For more than an hour they carefully searched the apartment,
taking personal documents, papers, and professional working material,
family photos, etc. One of the occupants called headquarters saying,
“the party is over, we are leaving now”. At approximately ten o’clock,
the victims were taken out handcuffed into private automobiles, a red
Chevy and a metallic gray Ford Falcon.
The attitude of the kidnappers, upon going out into the street with
their prisoners, in the middle of the morning, in the sight of
neighbors and passerby, pointing handguns and rifles and waiting
unhurriedly and with complete impunity, made it clear that they
belonged to the regular forces and were acting pursuant to public
With the victims in the Ford Falcon, Liliana in the front seat and
Daniel in the back, they drove along with two individuals constantly
pointing cocked weapons at them. After a block and a half, they were
blindfolded. The Chevy escorted the Ford Falcon, and their crews
communicated with each other by radio. The trip lasted some forty
minutes, with many turns intended to disorient the prisoners.
The morning of Saturday, November 13, one of the guards led Liliana,
at her request, to see her husband. He took many precautions in so
doing. He took her to a bathroom and asked her not to say anything
later that might compromise him. He also took Daniel to the same
place. He allowed them to take off their hoods and blindfolds and to
see each other for a minute. Liliana could see that Daniel had been
brutally tortured. He could hardly walk; they had applied the electric
prod to his testicles and gums. Later, they returned her to her place
and from that time on Liliana has known nothing of Daniel.
The morning of November 17, Liliana was released; she had also been
tortured. The return trip lasted only 20 minutes. Those who took her
back asked her to forget what had happened, that she should not think
of filing a complaint for a disappeared person anywhere, nor associate
with the groups of families of prisoners and disappeared persons. She
should understand that in a war some win and others lose. They added
if she knew how to move, nothing would happen, and she would be
hearing from them soon.
On November 21, the Saturday following Liliana’s release, a person
actually did telephone the complainant, who lives in Buenos Aires, and
asked her to contact Liliana; that in the garden of her parents’
house where she was staying in Mercedes in the Province of Buenos
Aires, 100 kilometers from the Capital, they had left some interesting
papers. They added that she should look at them carefully because they
could be of help to her.
Thus it was. A box was found, left during the early morning hours,
with the name Liliana and the address. The sender was identified only
as “Matías”, who was one of the persons making the arrest and one
of the wardens. Given the deference accorded him it was obvious he was
a naval officer.
Eyewitnesses to the arrest, included the neighbors Mauro Colombek,
domiciled at Guatemala 4860, in charge of the building, and Mrs. Pilar
Marcotte, owner of the Marcotte dry cleaning establishment, located on
Guatemala Street between Serrano and Thames.
Several petitions for writs of habeas corpus have been
submitted and complaints have been made to the Ministry of the
Interior, First Army Corps Command, the Navy, the Bar Association,
church officials, etc., with no results. The authorities insist that
Daniel Antokoletz is not in detention and they do not acknowledge the
kidnapping of Liliana.
In a note dated
November 26, 1979, the Argentine Government answered the Commission as
This government positively denies everything alleged both in the
complaint and in the additional information, and states that neither
Daniel Víctor Antokoletz, nor his wife Liliana, were arrested by
legal forces pursuant to an official order. The government denies that
the Naval Mechanics School contains places such as those described in
the complaint or that the military institution was or is a detention
or torture center for arrested persons, the latter obviously not even
being practice by any authority of the Republic.
In response to the request for information which the Argentine
Government made to the relevant authorities in attempting to establish
the whereabouts of Antokoletz the authorities replied in the negative.
Further, the Buenos Aires criminal trial Judge, Nº 30, who carried
out a careful legal investigation and was going to dismiss the case
due to the lack of evidence, (Case Nº 12.598), at the same time
directed that the perpetrators be arrested.
The Commission is
continuing to process this case pursuant to its regulations. However, it
is of the opinion that the government’s explanation does not clarify
the matter denounced.
Case 2326 – Antonio Bautista BETTINI and Jorge Alberto Daniel
presented the following denunciation:
Dr. Antonio Bautista BETTINI, Argentine, sixty years of age, lawyer
and district attorney for 30 years, currently professor of law, was
arrested on March 18, 1977.
This extreme outrage occurred in the presence of his son-in-law, Jorge
Alberto Daniel DEVOTO, a Lieutenant of the Argentine Navy, by armed
individuals, in civilian dress, as the two were leaving the Federal
Police station where they had gone to take some steps related to his
Lieutenant Devoto, as the sole witness to the event, on March 21,
1977, went to the headquarters of the Commander in Chief of the Navy—to
which branch he belonged—in the Capital, to present the
corresponding complaint, following the advice of his superiors, and
having disappeared since that time, without there being any news as to
his whereabouts. Steps taken on his behalf have brought the same
negative results as in the case of his father-in-law.
In a note dated
October 25, 1977, the Argentine Government answered as follows:
Persons having no record of detention and who are the subject of
police search by the Ministry of the Interior:
18. BETTINI, Antonio Bautista
Persons on whose behalf an investigation has been initiated to
determine their whereabouts because the national authorities have no
record of complaints regarding their disappearance prior to those
presented by the IACHR:
62. DEVOTO, Jorge Daniel
The IACHR is
currently continuing to process this case according to its Regulations.
It notes that the government’s reply did not provide significant
information to clarify the disappearance of Mr. Bettini and Mr. Devoto.
Case 2248 – Mario Gerardo YACUB
received the following report:
Mario Gerardo Yacub, Argentine, 39 years old, living at Espinosa 1458
in Buenos Aires, married, lawyer by profession, Draft Card Nº
The above named person was apprehended on November 1, 1976 by a group
of persons seemingly acting under color of some kind of authority and
who, at the time of the kidnapping, used irresistible force. On that
day Mario Gerardo was in his own law office, located at Talcahuano
638, 6th floor, Office “F” in the capital. At
approximately 10.30 am, a person claiming to be a client came to see
him, saying that he needed professional services. Thus, this person
gained entry, which in turn made possible the entry of a group of four
or five persons. The latter, immediately began brandishing fire arms,
and subdued Mario Gerardo and the office staff; later, after searching
the offices they took him out of the building, having locked the other
persons in the bathroom. As of that moment there has been no news
regarding his whereabouts. All inquiries made of the police
administrative or judicial authorities have brought negative results,
since they simple state that the beneficiary of the appeal is not
registered as a prisoner.
The Government of
Argentina replied to the IACHR in the following terms:
It has been reported that the attorney Mario Gerardo YACUB was
kidnapped on November 8, 1976 in his office on Talcahuano Street 638
in the city of Buenos Aires.
Without prejudice to maintaining, ab-initio, that in view of the
characteristics of the action, the Argentine Government had nothing to
do with it, since this is not the modus operandi of the legal
authorities, information have been requested from the relevant
authorities who have reported that no order of arrest was issued for
Dr. YACUB and that he is not, nor has he ever been placed under
It should be noted, furthermore, that at the date of the alleged
kidnapping, terrorists were still operating in the country, albeit on
a reduced scale, who belonged to various factions and who carried out
indiscriminate acts of violence on people, and it is therefore
apparent that, in view of the fact that the Government formulated no
charges against Dr. Yacub and hence no order of arrest was issued the
action should be attributed to the terrorists.
The IACHR is
continuing to process this case, as prescribed. However, it should be
pointed out that, in its judgment, the Government’s reply does not
sufficiently clarify Dr. Yacub’s disappearance.
In Buenos Aires the IACHR held interviews with groups of persons from
Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, who presented complaints about the
disappearances of relatives in Argentina. Some of them had been living
in Argentina; others had traveled from their respective countries
expressly in order to present testimony. In Washington and in Buenos
Aires the Commission also received information and reports from several
European embassies on the disappearance of their nationals. Among the
various cases involving foreigners, the following are selected:
Case 2576 – Sister Alice DOMON and Sister Léonie DUQUET
In December 26,
1977, the IACHR received the following complaint:
Sister Alice Domon, 40 years of age, from Charquemont, Doubs, France,
a resident of Argentina for 10 years, was arrested on December 8,
1977, upon leaving the Santa Cruz Catholic Church in the city of
Buenos Aires. A mass had just been said at the request of the
Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights, for the thousands of disappeared
persons in Argentina regarding whom the Government refuses to provide
information to their relatives. Sister Léonide Duquet, 61 years of
age, from Combes, France, a resident of Argentina for 10 years, was
arrested on December 10, 1977, at 11 am, at her residence in the
Parish of San Pablo, in the city of Buenos Aires.
Both French nuns belonged to the “Institut des Missions Etrangères”,
with headquarters in Tolouse, France, and they provided spiritual
comfort to relatives of the disappeared persons, many of whom may be
dead, in Argentina. Together with the two sisters 11 other persons of
Argentine nationality were detained, who were relatives of the victims
of political repression and whose whereabouts are unknown.
The Argentine press, which is subject to rigorous censorship, recently
reported briefly on the events of the 13th, although it
spoke of the “disappearance” and not of the detention carried out
by members of the First Army Corps, who showed police credentials and
drove automobiles without license plates, as in common in these
operations. In one case the automobile was a Renault; in another, it
was an American car, presumably a Ford.
The Government of
Argentina replied to the Commission:
Persons for whom there is no record of detention and who are the
subject of a police search by the Ministry of the Interior:
14. DOMON, Sister Alice
15. DUQUET, Sister Léonie
received additional information from the Government in a note dated
March 27, 1980, which in its opinion does not clarify the denunciations.
The case is still under consideration.
Case 3362 – Esther BALLESTRINO DE CAREAGA
On May 13, 1978,
the following was denounced:
Dr. Esther Ballestrino de Careaga (Argentine, federal police I.D. Nº
4.241.455), born in Paraguay, has been in political asylum in
Argentina for approximately the last 25 years.
In May, 1977, Dr. Careaga’s residence was broken into twice, and
documents, from the United States and UNESCO, having to do with a
paper she was preparing on human rights in Paraguay, requested by
those organizations, were taken. Death threats against the family and
the building were found and as in previous break-ins, her home was
left in complete disarray.
Because of the disappearance of several members of her family, Esther
Ballestrino de Careaga works with organizations that cooperate on the
struggle for human rights in Argentina and with the families of other
prisoners and disappeared persons, these families are known worldwide
for the meetings they hold every Thursday at the Plaza de Mayo to ask
about the situation of their relatives.
On December 8, 1977, together with 25 other women involved in this
movement to express solidarity with the two French nuns who worked
with them, Dr. Careaga was kidnapped upon leaving the church of Santa
Cruz, located on Independencia and Urquiza, in the Capital, by
civilian personnel who identified themselves as policemen; she was
forced into a Renault without license plates. Despite persistent
inquiries by the Paraguayan and Argentine Solidarity Committees, and
their successful efforts to obtain a visa for Dr. Careaga to go to
Sweden, to date there is no information as to her whereabouts.
The Government of
Argentina, in a note received by the Commission on March 27, 1980,
replied as follows:
With regard to the events of December 8, 1977, at the entrance to the
Church of Santa Cruz, an official denial was issued by this Government
with reference to Sister Alice Domon.
However, we have not been able to establish a link between the alleged
disappearance of the person in question and Sisters Domon and Duquet,
particularly since the person in question, on the date of these
events, could not have been requesting information as to the
whereabouts of a member of her family, as the note says, since her
family was living at that time in Sweden.
On the other hand, according to information received by this
Government from the Paraguay Committee for Human Rights, the person in
question was about to travel to Sweden where her daughters lived,
which does not preclude the possibility that she traveled via some
neighboring country, since one does not need a passport to leave
In sum, the information provided is not sufficient to establish that
Mrs. Ballestrino de Careaga was, on the date in question, in the
doorway of the Santa Cruz church and even less that she was the victim
of an assault.
The Commission is
continuing it consideration of this case. However, in its judgment the
Government’s reply does not discredit the contents of the
Some testimonies given by persons who were released after having
The Commission feels it important to include a special section
containing some testimonies given by persons, who were missing for a
relatively brief period of time, and then released. The circumstances as
to the measures used, and the time and place of the events confirm the
gravity of this problem.
Case 2155 – Enrique RODRÍGUEZ LARRETA PIERA
On April 15, 1977,
the Commission received the following communication:
I, Enrique Rodríguez Larreta Piera, a Uruguayan citizen, whose
legal residence is in Montevideo, 55 years of age, married, the father
of 4 children, and with 4 grandchildren, with no previous legal
record, wish to give an objective testimony summarizing the events I
lived through, beginning on July 1, 1976.
I was informed on that date by my daughter-in-law, RAQUEL NOGUEIRA
PAULIER, of the disappearance of my son, ENRIQUE RODRÍGUEZ LARRETA
MARTÍNEZ, a Uruguayan, married, 26 years of age, father of a 5
year-old child, a journalist by profession, whose legal residence has
been in Argentina since 1973.
My son had been a student leader in Uruguay. In 1972, he was detained
by the army and held incommunicado for nine months; he was
subject to torture during interrogation, which was reported in
Parliament, still functioning at that time in Uruguay. Finally, the
trial that they intended to fabricate against him was dismissed for
lack of evidence, and my son went to Buenos Aires with his family,
where he worked on the newspaper El Cronista Comercial.
In light of the circumstances under which political refugees were
living in Argentina and the events happening there, my daughter-in-law
and I decided to send the child to Uruguay, and put him into the care
of his maternal grandmother, who came to Buenos Aires expressly for
We immediately contacted an attorney whose name I do not with to
mention here, and on his advice, we presented a writ of habeas
corpus to a court, the secretary of which was Dr. Muller, on July
2, 1976. In this petition, we asked that the Police, the Ministry of
Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and other security forces be
requested to provide reports on my son’s status. Several days later,
I was informed that the petition would be shelved, since the
authorities had reported that there was no news about my son and that
he was not in detention.
In light of this, I did all that was within my power to discover my
son’s whereabouts. I visited the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees, where I talked with Dr. Mones Ruiz; the
Assistant Secretariat of the Episcopal Council, the Assistant Military
Chaplain, and I was able to obtain an interview with a member of the
Supreme Court, Dr. Abelardo Rossi, through the intervention of the
Pallotine Fathers, to whom I talked in the church on Carlos Calvo and
General Urquiza Street, to try and interest them in my son’s case.
Everywhere I received expressions of solidarity, but I was always told
that it was impossible to do anything. I remember that the Justice of
the Supreme Court informed me that as of that date, more than 6,000
writs of habeas corpus had been presented for cases similar to
During this period, I also made efforts to publicize the news of my
son’s disappearance as widely as possible. The information was
widely published in Buenos Aires (La Nación, Crónica, Última
Hora, La Opinión, El Cronista Comercial, The
Buenos Aires Herald) and even in Montevideo (El País, El
Día, La Mañana), and the international news agencies were
also informed. I wrote numerous letters to various individuals and
institutions reporting the fact, and on July 2, I again entered a writ
of habeas corpus, bringing before the court all the data I had
been able to obtain on my son’s detention.
On the night of July 13-14, a group of about 8 to 12 armed individuals
entered the apartment building where my son and my daughter-in-law
were living (Víctor Martínez Street 1488, Buenos Aires) threatening
the concierge, who asked them for identification; they broke down the
apartment door and rushed in without showing any kind of search
Immediately, they proceeded to handcuff my daughter-in-law and myself,
they listened to no reasons and they gave no explanations; they
covered our heads with hoods, and did not even allow us to get
dressed. In other words, they took us out of the house in our
nightclothes and put us into a closed wagon, treating us violently and
The vehicle in which we were traveling went to another house, and
parked for a few moments; a couple was put inside next to us, and then
they took us to another location where a noisy rolling metal door had
to be opened to get in.
Once we were there, they demanded my identification, always treating
me brutally and rudely, not allowing me to give even the slightest
explanation and giving me no reply other than further blows and
I was immediately able to see that there were many people in this
place in the same condition as myself. I identified my son among them
by his voice, and because in hooding me, they had used a very
loose-weaved sugar sack, which enables me to see silhouettes. Then, a
guard realized that I was able to see a little, and he gave me a
beating and bound my eyes tightly with a piece of rag.
Another person there was Margarita Michelini—the daughter of my
friend Senator Zelmar Michelini, who had been assassinated shortly
before—and León Duarte, a Uruguayan labor leader, who had been a
major force in my country’s trade union movement.
They immediately began to take some of the people detained with me to
the upper floor, via an inside staircase, to interrogate them. I
realized from the piercing screams that I heard constantly that they
were being barbarously tortured, which I confirmed when they brought
them back down to the place on the ground floor where I was. There
were dragged down by the guards, whimpering. They were thrown down on
the cement floor, and we were prohibited from giving them water
because they had been “in the machine”, as they said.
The following night, it was my turn to be taken upstairs, where they
interrogated me under torture, as they did to all the other men and
women there. They undressed me completely, and putting my hands behind
my back, hung me by the wrists about 20 of 30 centimeters off the
floor. At the same time, they put a sort of loincloth around me that
had a number of electrical terminals in it. When it is connected up,
the victim is electrified at various points at the same time. This
apparatus, which they called “the machine”, is connected while the
questioning is going on, and they threaten you and insult you, and hit
you on your most sensitive parts. The floor under the place where the
detainees are hung is very wet and covered with coarse salt crystals,
so that the torture is multiplied if the person manages to get his
feet on the floor. A number of people who were detained with me got
out of the hanging apparatus, and fell to the floor, resulting in
serious injuries. I particularly remember the case of someone whom I
afterward learned was Edelweiss Zahn de Andrés, who suffered severe
cuts on his temples and on his angles, which later became infected.
While they were torturing me, they asked me questions about my son’s
political activities, and about my participation in the Partido por
la Victoria del Pueblo (Party for the Victory of the People), to
which, according to them, my son belonged. It was in this room that I
was able to see, at a moment when the blindfold slipped a little
because I was sweating so much, that a medium sized picture of Adolph
Hitler was hanging on the wall.
I cannot say exactly how long they tortured me. I believe that in my
case, it was not more than half an hour, but in the majority of cases,
it lasted from 2 to 3 hours, according to my estimates.
After I had undergone this treatment, they took me back downstairs,
where I stayed until the day I was transferred to Uruguay. The
hygienic conditions were lamentable, the place seemed to be an
abandoned workshop for mechanics, because of all the dirty grease and
mud around and there was only one small latrine for the almost 30
people detained there. During this period, we often heard the voices
of other people upstairs, asking to go to the bathroom or asking for
some water or food.
I clearly recognized that one of these voices belonged to Gerardo
Gatti Acuña, whom I have known for a long time as a union leader of
the graphics workers in Uruguay. From comments by other detainees—there
where times when the guards where careless and we were able to
exchange a few words in a low voice--, I learned that another of the
voices I heard upstairs belonged to Hugo Méndez, another Uruguayan
trade unionist who had been kidnapped in Buenos Aires in June.
As the days went on, I was able to realize, from the content of the
conversation and the idioms they were using, that most of those who
took part in the kidnapping operation, and all of those who were
guarding us were Argentines. From the way they were addressed, the
guards seemed to belong to the Argentine army, while those who took
part in the operations did not give that impression. One of them was a
man of about 35 years of age, extremely fat, who answered to the
nickname of “Paqui” (contraction of “Pachyderm”), who behaved
brutally and made a show of his strength, and boasted that he could
break down any kind of door.
Officials of the Uruguayan army participated directly in the
interrogations and torture. Some said that they belonged to a group
called OCOA (Organismo Coordinador de Operaciones Anti-subversivas),
and among themselves, they called each other by the name of OSCAR,
followed by an ordinal number. OSCAR 1 is a high-ranking officer, who
might be about 45 years old, of medium height, fat, white-haired, whom
they also called by the nickname of “El tordillo” (“the gray
horse”). I managed to hear about ten numbers, corresponding to
officers who had the rank of captain or higher. Some of them seemed,
from their comments, normally to live in Argentina.
Officers belonging to the Defense Intelligence Service (SID), members
of what we are told is the “300 Division” worked alongside the
members of the OCOA. The chief of this Division is a Colonel, who is
known by the number 301. The operations Chief of the Division is the
one directly responsible for administering the torture, along with the
one called OSCAR 1. The 300 Division apparently consists of about 60
people, including officers and enlisted men.
There were enlisted men from the 300 Division in the place where we
were confined. The two main ones were known as “Daniel” (a
sergeant) and “Drácula” (a private, first class). They were the
ones responsible for getting ready everything that had been stolen in
the raids and packing it up (they said that it was “the spoils of
the battle-field”) for subsequent shipment to Uruguay.
The stolen goods included stripped-down automobiles, refrigerators,
television sets, typewriters and calculators, domestic electrical
appliances, china, bicycles, books, etc.
On July 15, they brought three more people, who had been kidnapped, to
the place. From the guards’ conversations, and when they identified
themselves, I was able to learn that they were Manuela Santucho, and
attorney, Carlos Santucho (brother and sister of Mario Roberto
Santucho), and a sister-in-law of his, whose name I forget, but whom
the guards called “Beba”, I don’t know whether pejoratively, or
because this was her nickname.
On July 19, 1976, they announced to us that Mario Roberto Santucho had
died in an armed incident, rudely insulting his family. At that point,
both Carlos Santucho and his sister-in-law seemed to have lost their
reason as a result of the brutal torture to which they had been
subjected. Manuela Santucho, despite the fact that she also had been
barbarously tortured, was still lucid.
About 6 pm that day, they began to fill up a large water tank that
they had placed in the midst of us prisoners. We heard the water
flowing. Meanwhile, the officers and the guards insulted and punished
the prisoners, and said we were responsible for the death of a captain
that had occurred during that armed encounter, and they said that “we
are going to wash everybody’s head” in the tank. During the night,
under the pretext that Carlos Santucho was in a constant delirium,
they pounced on him and chained him up, we heard the characteristic
sound of chains. Earlier, they had hung from the roof a sliding
apparatus over the tank, and had explained its use in great detail.
They passed a rope through the apparatus that they tied to the chains
around Santucho, while they explained this maneuver to us, also in
great detail. At that moment, an Argentine officer brought a copy of
the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín, which recounted the manner
in which Mario Roberto Santucho had died, and he forced Manuela
Santucho to read it out loud to us. Meanwhile, Carlos Santucho was
dipped up and down into the tank full of water, and every time he
emerged they laughed and insulted him while beating him brutally. This
treatment went on for a long time, which surprised us, because
according to comments we had heard from the guards themselves, he had
never been active politically. Then it seemed that the body showed no
signs of life. They undid him, put him in a vehicle, and took him
away. Manuela Santucho and her sister-in-law remained a couple of more
days with us, and then they were taken somewhere else, I don’t know
The chief of the Argentine detachment is a high-ranking officer, whom
his subordinates call, among themselves, “el jova” or “el jovato”,
which in Buenos Aires slang means “the old man”. When he arrived
at the place where we were detained, it was he who asked us for our
identification. I was able to see through the sack that was over my
heard that he is a man of between 50 and 55 years of age,
approximately 1.75 meters (5’9) tall, with a hard disposition,
strong features and very short hair that was somewhat gray. He wore
boots, riding britches, and a typical military overcoat.
The place where I was held kidnapped has, as I have already said, a
large door with a rolling metal screen, which could be heard every
time vehicles went in and out. Any entry of a vehicle was announced to
the guards several minutes in advance, and the code name “Operation
Sesame” was used. The room on the ground floor is large. It is
between 6 or 8 meters wide and 25 or 30 meters long. It was
partitioned off with a whitewashed piece of sacking. On the wall to
the right, by the entrance, there is a small latrine, with a WC that
has no bowl, and a small hand-basin. At the end of the bathroom, there
is a small sink. The staircase going to the upper floor is next to the
latrine; in has a cement base and steps with thick planks. The
staircase seemed to have been constructed later than the rest of the
house. On the lower floor, there are at least three rooms and a
kitchen, and there is a wall made of blocks, which also seems to have
been constructed later.
At certain hours, from behind the house, we could hear the sound of a
school with children playing during recess, which leads me to believe
that there was a school nearby. At a short distance in front of the
house, there was a railway line. According to comments by a guard,
there was an auto-repair shop on the next corner.
On July 25th, they told us that we should prepare to be
transferred. They had already said this three days earlier, but on
that occasion, according to the guard, the airplane in which we were
to travel had not arrived because there was a severe storm that day
and hence the operation was postponed. They put adhesive tape over our
eyes and mouth and all the people detained, except me, were handcuffed
with their hands behind their backs. They didn’t in my case, because
I had a severe inflammation on my left wrist, where a wound had become
infected as a result of the handcuffs. So they tied me up with
adhesive tape, they made us get into the back of a truck, and sit on
the floor. Over our heads, leaning on the side of the truck, they
placed boards and formed a sort of double wall. On top of the boards,
they put a large quantity of packages and boxes containing stolen
items. According to the guards, they had made four other trips with
this type of cargo. We finally left the house where we had been held
kidnapped. Gerardo Gatti, León Duarte and Hugo Méndez remained in
the house at that time, but I never learned anything more about them.
The truck in which we were traveling was heavily guarded, to judge
from the noise made by a large number of automobiles and motorcycles
around us, and the sound of the sirens sounded at the intersections to
stop the traffic. They took us to the Military Base next to the Aeroparque
in the city of Buenos Aires. I learned this on arrival because as a
result of the sweat that was running down my face after being shut up,
and because of the rain that was falling, the adhesive tape had
loosened somewhat, allowing me to see a little.
Once we got out of the truck, they made us get into a Fairchild
aircraft, the sort used by the Uruguayan Air Force and also by TAMU
(Uruguayan Military Air Transport) and PLUNA (National Airline). Some
of the people who were traveling with me were able to see the PLUNA
logo on the plastic bags placed in the seat pockets. We were seated,
and the flight lasted for about an hour, according to my estimates.
When we landed and got out, I realized that we were in Military Air
Base Nº 1, next to the National Airport of Carrasco, on the outskirts
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