Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Argentina

Status of the investigation into acts of harassment against Ms. Nara Oses and Ms. Edith Galarza1

By the end of 2006, the investigation opened by the Superior Tribunal of Justice of the Neuquén Province, concerning acts of harassment perpetrated in 2005 against Ms. Nara Oses, the official defender of children's rights working, in particular, on a phenomenon called "gatillo facil"2, and Ms. Edith Galarza, her assistant, had produced no results.

In March 2005, Ms. Nara Oses and her assistant had received several death threats by telephone, and had consequently been granted police protection for two months.

The provincial government had also tried to dismiss Ms. Nara Oses.

Status of the investigation into acts of vandalism against SERPAJ headquarters3

By the end of 2006, no progress had been made in the investigation into acts of vandalism committed against the organisation Peace and Justice Service (Servicio de Paz y Justicia – SERPAJ) in 2005.

On November 9, 2005, SERPAJ headquarters in Buenos Aires were burgled. Six computers containing important information and documents relating to the Third People's Summit in Mar del Plata, which had taken place from November 1 to 5, 20054, and in which SERPAJ had actively participated, were stolen.

Following a complaint filed by SERPAJ, the police examined the premises and two members of the organisation were called in to the police station to record their statements the following week.

In addition, on September 15, 2006, unidentified individuals broke into the residence of Mr. Miguel Hugo Vaca Narvaja, a SERPAJ member in Córdoba, and stole a computer.

Threats, ill-treatment and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders fighting against impunity5

Twenty-three years after the end of the dictatorship, numerous threats and attempts to intimidate were still being carried out against families of victims, witnesses and human rights defenders involved in trials initiated after the Supreme Court repealed, in June 2005, the laws prohibiting investigations and trials in connection with crimes against humanity committed under the former Argentinean military government (1976-1983)6.

– The threats and acts of intimidation, regularly targeting Mr. César Raúl Sivo since 2000, who is investigating human rights violations committed during the dictatorship, have intensified since March 2006. More particularly, he was followed on several occasions on his way to work or home, and his phone was tapped; people who had approached him, claiming to be victims, threatened him with death after admitting their involvement in violations committed during the dictatorship. He also received numerous threats by telephone, mail and electronic messages.

– On March 13, 2006, Ms. Sonia Torres, a member of the organisation Grandmothers of May Square (Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo) in Córdoba, was assaulted by three unidentified individuals who entered her home as she was returning from a meeting organised by human rights organisations preparing the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the coup. These men put guns to her head and beat her. Since the attack, Ms. Torres has been under police surveillance. Nevertheless, unidentified individuals attempted to break in her home again on June 22, 2006. A complaint was lodged with the Federal Prosecutor No. 1 of Córdoba.

– On June 23, 2006, the office of Mr. Juan Carlos Vega, a lawyer with the Argentinean Human Rights Service (Servicio Argentino de Derechos Humanos), in Córdoba, was burgled. His laptop, which contained documents relating to a case for crime against humanity pending before the Federal Court No. 3, was stolen. A complaint was lodged with the Federal Prosecutor No. 1 of Córdoba.

– On June 29, 2006, Ms. María Teresa Sánchez, a lawyer for the Grandmothers of May Square in Córdoba, received death threats through messages that had been left at her office. Besides, on September 18, 2006, an unidentified individual broke into her office while she was out. He then beat and pulled by her hair Ms. Mariana Paramio, Ms. María Teresa Sánchez' colleague, demanding to know where she was before leaving the premises. A complaint was lodged with the Federal Prosecutor No. 1 of Córdoba.

– On August 9, 2006, Ms. Lucia Extremera, a member of the organisation Daughters and Sons for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence (Hijas e Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio – HIJOS) in Buenos Aires, was approached by a group of men who aimed their weapons at her, advising her to stop her activities. Ms. Extremera played a role in the trial of Mr. Julio Simón – also known as "Julián the Turk" – before the Comodoro Py Court. Mr. Julio Simón, a former police officer, was sentenced on August 4, 2006 to 25 years' imprisonment for the abduction, torture and disappearance of a young couple who were Peronist activists, as well as for the abduction of their child in 1978. Ms. Extremera lodged a complaint with the Criminal Court No. 4 of Buenos Aires.

– On September 27, 2006, Mr. Jorge Auat, General Prosecutor of the Chaco Province, received a threatening letter from a so-called international organisation of victims of terrorism, concerning his activities in connection with investigations he was leading into crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship. Mr. Jorge Auat asked for protection from the federal police of the city of Resistencia, but his request was rejected.

– On November 15, 2006, Ms. Eva Arroyo, a member of the Jujuy branch of HIJOS, received an anonymous phone call threatening her with death and warning her that Mr. Lezcano, a retired police captain whose actions had been denounced by HIJOS, was going to send people to "do something to her". Ms. Arroyo filed a complaint and had been granted police protection by the end of 2006.

– Acts of harassment and intimidation against several human rights defenders who denounced the disappearance of Mr. Jorge Julio López7. Since September 2006, several human rights defenders have been threatened over the telephone, through letters or emails, after denouncing the disappearance of Mr. Jorge Julio López, a former detainee-disappeared and a key witness in the trial of Mr. Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz, former director general of the Investigations Department of Buenos Aires8, on charges of crimes against humanity.

For instance, on September 25, 2006, several leaflets containing death threats against members of the Ecumenical Human Rights Movement (Movimiento Ecuménico por los Derechos Humanos – MEDH) were left at the offices of the organisation, in Santa Fé. These threats were received after Ms. Milagros Demiryi, MEDH regional coordinator, played an active role in the denunciation of the disappearance of Mr. Jorge Julio López. Ms. Milagros Demiryi immediately filed a complaint and was under police protection as of the end of 2006.

On October 1, 2006, Mr. Leandro Despouy, a human rights lawyer, Auditor General of the Republic of Argentina and Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the independence of judges and lawyers, received a telephone call at his home from individuals claiming to have "abducted his mother and sister by mistake" and spoke about his relatives' daily habits and activities.

Upon the callers' request, Mr. Despouy walked out in the street to look for them and noticed a police officer and two individuals moving away from his home. He was then able to contact his family and ascertain that no harm had been done to them.

Lastly, on October 17, 2006, a few hours before the holding of an event in memory of Mr. Jorge Julio López, Mr. Ramiro Gonzáles, a HIJOS member, was abducted near his residence by unidentified armed individuals in plain clothes. The abductors forced him into their vehicle, where they threatened, beat and insulted him for two hours, showing him photographs of HIJOS members and taking his fingerprints.

On several occasions, his abductors threatened to kill him and other members of the organisation if they did not cease their activities. They finally released him, ordering him to run without looking back.

On October 18, 2006, HIJOS lodged a complaint with the Criminal Court.

Since this incident, several HIJOS members have been followed by men in plain clothes, and have reportedly received death threats through anonymous phone calls. A check of the phone records showed that the calls were made from the Marcos Paz prison, where several former key actors of the dictatorship are detained.

On November 22, 2006, HIJOS denounced these events before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and asked for protection for those involved in the trials related to crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship (plaintiffs, witnesses, relatives, judges and prosecutors, lawyers, etc.).

1. See Annual Report 2005.

2. Literally "trigger-happiness"; this refers to the quasi-systematic use of firearms by police officers as a means of repression, particularly against young criminals.

3. See Annual Report 2005.

4. The Third People's Summit was held as an anti-summit to the Summit of the Americas, which gathered Heads of States of the Organization of American States (OAS).

5. See HIJOS, November 2006.

6. The "Full Stop" Law (1986) and "Due Obedience" Law (1987), which exempted security forces from any legal proceedings, were repealed in June 2005. Since then, many people have fought so that justice be done for victims of enforced disappearances, assassinations, and other violations of fundamental rights which were committed under the former Argentinean military government.

7. See Urgent Appeals ARG 001/1006/OBS 121 and ARG 002/1006/OBS 124.

8. See OMCT Urgent Appeal ARG 260906, OMCT Press Release, October 3, 2006, and FIDH Press Release, September 21, 2006.


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