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Document Creation Date: 
April 3, 2019
Document Release Date: 
April 12, 2019
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Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 Enclosure Paper Prepared in the Department of State ^3 Washington, undated Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 'S3A11,-1:7W1VN011111 3H1 IV 033(10011d311 Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT ARGENTINA: ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION (01( (C) Parameters and problems. The following assessment covers the Argentine government's 1978 performance and the current situation with respect to category-one human rights. Inevitauly, efforts have been hampered somewhat by the US Governments limited capacity for monitoring human rights events in Argentina and verifying reports of either positive or negative developments. (C) Imprecision is most clearly a problem with statistical material. Frankly stated, we do not know exactly how many people have been tortured or killed, how many are now being held prisoner, how many prisons are being used, etc. We are forced, in many cases, to reply upon estimates whose credibility stems from their relatively wide acceptance among groups interested in and informed upon Argentina human rights developments. (C) We do not believe, however, tnat timely, precise and verifiable information would fundamentally alter the assessment offered, below. N The record ,of Argentine human rights events is sufficiently complete to produce a convincing cumulative picture of the government's perfOrmance. And while precise statistics might alter somewhat the quantitative dimensions of that picture, its qualitative aspects would remain unchanged. (C) Current situation. With respect to category-one rights, conditions can be summarized as follows: (C) Political._prisoners: Approximately 2,900 persons purportedly guilty of security violations are being detained at the aisposition of the national executive branch under state-of-siege powers provided tor in the Argentine constitution (PEN priso'ners (C) OThe current state of siege was instituted on November 6, 1974 by the Isabel Peron government. Under the state-of-siege, the national executive is empowered to detain prisoners indefinitely, but it can neither judge nor punish detainees. The Argentine courts ruled in 1977 and 1978 that the executive branch must cite specific causes for detention SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 S3A11-101,1V IVNOLLv,t,13H11V 03011008c138 Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 .SECRET/p0FORN/NO .CONTRAcT Ag YO/V There are are two other groups of prisoners, neither of which is publicly acknowledged by the government. One group is being held at the disposition of military authorities (DAM prisoners) and probably includes about. 500 persons. According to Embassy Buenos Aires sources, most of these prisoners are either former terrorists now cooperating with security units. or new detainees undergoing interrogation and not, therefore, listed as PEN detainees. The final group involves prisoners who have been selected for a rehabilitation program run by the security services. We have no reliable figures, but the program appears to be relatively small, encompassing at most a few hundred persons. (C) No..sustainedHoffiCial effort is being made to sub- stantially reduce the number of political prisoners by ..(1) releasing those against whom there exists no evidence of terrorist or criminal involvement nor pending charges; (2) trying those charged with specific offenses; or (3) permitting political prisoners to exercise their constitutional rights to choose exile over imprisonment (tight-of-option). The right-of-option program initiated iniate 1977 has resulted in few approvals of prisoner petitions for exile. (C) There is little evidence to substantiate persistent rumors that thousands of political prisoners are being held in clandestine camps located throughout the country. (C) Torture and prisoner, mistreatment: Physical and psychological torture apparently remain standard treatment . for alleged subversives, or persons believed to have informa- tion about subversion who refuse to cooperate with security in response to habeas corpus petitions covering PEN prisoners. However, the Executive does not always respond to court order. While we have little information that would permit categorizinb detainees according to types of offenses, the PEN list probably includes few if any terrorists suspected of having committed violent acts against persons or property. Such individuals, when captured by security units, are routinely killed after interrogation. The alleged security violations of most of those listed as PEN detainees probably include such things as (a) non-violent actions undertaken in support of subversive (broadly defined to include action or teachings contrary to the military's conception of social order) groups, e.g., poster and pamphlet distribution and a variety SECRET/NOFORN/NO. CONTRACT -Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 ST\itI3WTdWI1,143-1.1.1VM3r1M1dRI Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFORN/NO. CONTRACT -3- officials. Torture generally occurs during interrogation, prior to official listing of a detainee as a PEN prisoner, his or her summary execution. Y4,4/3 or August that as many as 90 percent of PEN detainees were tortured during interrogation 1CW (C) Prisoner .treatment beyond the interrogation stage and after PEN listing appears to vary considerably depending upon such factors as the prisoner's alleged offense, the proclivities of the regional military commander, and the character of individual jailors. Reports of severe mistreatment (beatings, denial of adequate food, medical care, exercise, etc.) are most often associated with specific military jurisdictions and prisons, or with the transfer or release of prisoners. In at least five reasonably documented instances in early 1978, for example, prisoners released from a La Plata jail were immediately either murdered or kidnapped, presumably by security elements. Official actions appear to have prevented recurrences of this particular type of abuse, but in late 1978 an ICRC official reported to the Embassy his belief that prison conditions and 'risoner treatment had deteriorated during. the year.. (C) Disappearances: Reports of disappearances continue to accumulate. In the vast majority of cases, responsibility almost certainly lies with one of the many security units. In the absence of evidence of clandestine camps housing thousands of allegedly-disappeared persons, most must be presumed dead. of other support activities; (b) economic actions perceived by the authorities as directly having supported subversion (the Graiver case) or otherwise endangered national interests; (c) affiliation with groups vaguely defined as "leftists'; or (0) actions that contributed to an intellectual-cultural environment conducive to the growth of usubversionh (herein lies the danger to journalists, writers, teachers, performing artists, etc.). Thus, the term security violationi! has no specific meaning. Its operative definition is largely left to the discretion of regional and local authorities with arrest powers. (C) ceived from released prisoners tend to substantiate observations on the frequency of torture. 3.3(b)(1) SECRET/N0fORN/Na.CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925.- S4WI8V-TINOLIARC3M1VMMGOW3l Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRT/NO.FORN/NO CONTRACT AieG* (Li) Non-governmental human rights organizations tend to use the figure of 15, 000 for disappearances over the 'past 3-4 years. Argentine groups share that estimate and have presented the government with documentation on almost 5,000 cases. In truth, however, no one knows precisely how many people have disappeared or, in many cases, why specific individuals were victimized. (C) Few who have disappeared since, about mid-1977, and on whom we have any information, could be considered terrorists or security threats. With most terrorists either eliminated pr living in exile, the security, forces have made a significant shift in their targetting practices to draw into the security net a range of non-terrorists associated with the vague and expansively defined political lett. The decision as to which specific individuals will be picked up is left to regional and local authorities and, therefore, depends upon the latter!S perception of what kinds of activities constitute security threats. The victim's culpability may only have involved past membership in a group tnat was entirely legal at the time. Insofar as there is a discernible pattern, there has been a tendency toward the disappearance of persons with a comMon association past or present; e.g., graduates of the same hign school or university faculty, members of a political party or youth group, etc. However, there are many cases that make no apparent sense and for which tne explanation may lie.more in internal politics than in any specific act of the victim. (C) Public criticism of government policies has, with few known exceptions, generally not been considered by authorities as grounds for detaining the critics and abusing or killing them. Many politicians, labor leaders, businessmen, and other professionals have criticized the government!s economic, political and human rignts policies without suffering retribution at the hands of the security. forces. (C) There has been no significant official effort to collect and publish information on persons who allegedly have disappeared. When queried about disappearances by non-- - governmental organizations or foreign governments, the Argentines! standard.response is Tho information. The Argentine courts SECRET/NC:TORN/NO. CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 S3A15LIV1VNOLIAN 3H1 IV 0301100tIdat Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT -57 regularly accept habeas corpus petitions concerning alleged disappeared persons, but they have refused to accept jurisdiction in such. cases. (C) The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (relatives of disappeared persons) one of the most persistent and cohesive groups seeking information on disappeared persons, has recently been prohibited from conducting what had been a weekly Thursday vigil in front of Government House in down- town Buenos Air-er-The demonstrations apparently had become too large and potentially disruptive in the judgment of government officials who do not. intend to satisfy their demands for information. The Mothers are now holding their gatherings at smaller and less conspicuous sites. Y6A-f (C) Given the diffusion of authority that has character- ized the counterterrorist effort, it is highly unlikely that any government agency either has collected or will be able to collect definitive files on alleged disappearance cases. The various security units have an obvious interest in withholding or destroying.information on cases for which their operatives have been responsible. (C) ReapPearances emerged as a new and possibly under- reported facet of the human rights scene in 1978. There are no reliable figures, but the number of cases is probably quite small in relation to the reported number of disappearances. As of mid-September, the Embassy had received reports of 15 cases and by mid-November Argentine human rights groups placed the figure at over 100, with a UNHCR representative suggesting it might be as high as 300. During 1978,. the government published 4 lists with the names of hundreds of persons who had allegedly reappeared. In most cases, however, the individuals appear to have been the Subjects of regular "missing persons" cases. Their names did not appear on the lists of disappeared persons maintained by the Embassy and Argentine human rights' organizations. (C) trial. All who have been detained by official security agencies and subsequently disappeared have. obviously been denied .a fair public hearing of the charges against them. S.ECRET/NOPORN/NO cONTRACT - Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925-7-1-:----------- � S3AIHOU'd TiNOILVN 31-111V 030(1001:Id3l Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT -6- Ag 011/6 (C) Insofar as alleged security violators are chari25L and tried in civilian or military courTg;fx" there are two notable problems: the often extended period between de- tention and judicial processing and the reported predominance of convictions based on confessional evidence extracted through torture. Professional legal groups such as the ICJ intend to investigate the question of confessional evidence. (C) _Invasion, of the home. The detention practices of operational counterterrorist units regularly involve illegal invasion of the home. In addition, there are numerous reports of arresting Officers ransacking private residences and stealing the personal property of the detainee. (C) Trends. 1978 produced no substantial quantitative improvement or deterioration in category-one terms. The year /0 teatured a variety of positive and negative factors, but the net result was to leave the situation little changec-TY2 Violations of category-one rights at the hands of official security personnel were frequent throughout the year, and there was no evidence Of a .Concerted, :effective government effort to halt the 'abuses. (C) It is difficult to refine the trends analysis to reflect possible patterns of the incidence of certain kinds of abuses because the available statistical material is not always reliable. The question of disappearances provides a good example- In June 1978, Embassy Buenos Aires and Argentine human right's groups believed that.disappearances during the first third of 1978 had declined in frequeny (about 15 per month). in comparison to 1977. By later in (C) **w The status of PEN prisoners withrespect to judicial processing is quite complicated because a prisoner held under!a PEN decree can simultaneously be processed on charges in civilian or military courts and, if convicted, serve and complete the imposed sentence. Perhaps half or more of the current PEN detainees are either being tried or have been sentenced by judicial authorities. This is significant because, among other reasons, PEN detainees who are under the concurrent jurisdiction of judicial. authorities are not eligible to petition for exile under the right-of-option program. SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 S3A;4OLIVIVNOIIKN 3H1 IV 030110011d321 Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT -7- iW YtA/7 the year, however, additional information forded upward adjustments in the figures. .Interior Ministry records showed a rate of 40 per month for January to October (as compared to 150 per month in 1977 and 250 per month in 1978) and a Foreign Ministry source placed the ten-month 1978 figure at about � 80 per month. By November, the Embassy had reports of dis- appearances averaging about 34 per month for the January-April period. The Embassy has since concluded that a figure of 55 per month would be a reasonable estimate for 1978. (C) On the basis of such evidence, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that disappearances occurred with relative frequer3Cy throughout the year with month-to-month variations reflecting tactical considerations rather than policy the situation changed little decisions. In essence during 1978. (S/NF/NC) Counterterror,ism,'uncontrolled. The conclusion tnat conditions did not improve in 1978 is based, in part, on evidence that the security forces continued to operate without effective central Control. 42- Numerous reports during the ear from a variety of sources stated that: � V - President Videla and.his moderate supporters were attempting to establish rigid command and control over security operations; new orders had been issued with respect to con- ducting police and military operations within the bounds of the law; or -- police and military operatives had been dis- missed or disciplined for abuses. (C) Some of the reported efforts were probably undertaken. Some improvements may well have occurred, particularly in areas under the jurisdiction of officers disposed toward reform. Nonetheless, at the close of 1978 it was apparent that counterterrorist actions were generally being conducted in accord with orders issued by regional and local military authorities who viewed themselves as unconstrained by the law or the directives of national authorities. In late October, an admiral with counterterrorist responsibilities in the Buenos Aires area stated to an Embassy officer that there was almost no central control over operational counterterrorist units.. Sc:RET/NoFoRN/NO. CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 ST+11-108V TINDIVN 31411V C13011002id38 Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SgCRET/poFoRN/Np, CONTRACT -8- g6- Y64/f � (C) The politiparcontext. The 'dirty war" argument so frequently employed by Argentines to rationalize human rights abuses is no longer relevant. According to estimates drafted by the Argentine Federal Security Service in late 1978, there were only about 400 active terrorists in Argentina; no single group was estimated to have more than 245 resident activists, and no group was judged a serious and immediate security threat. High government officials, including President Videla, have repeatedly stated both publicly and privately that the "war" is over, i.e, that there is no continuing high-level internal security threat (C) The explanation for the continuing human rights abuses lies in armed forces, .and especially army, politics rather than in internal, security problems. The army is the predominant service-, and its political:heterogeneity is reflected in the conduct of government affairs. 'President Videla leads a group of militaryand civilian moderates who would prefer to see human rights abuses halted. Videla!s priority concern, however, is to maintain the maximum degree - of army and military unity, because the development of irreparable internal splits probably.would spell- his-own quick demise and the end of the military!s National Reorganization Process. Videla is not power hungry, but he is committed to the military government's reform program and believes his own role important. Thus, Videla!s preferences give way to his long-term political goals when his preferences threaten military cohesion. (C) In the case of human rights abuses, neither Videla nor any other significant military figure, has questioned the pre-March 1976 decision to physically eliminate hard core terrorists. Videla!s differences with the so-called hardliners center on violations of the rights of non-terrorists. The hardliners are philosophically authoritarian and inclined to label a wide range of political activity and sentiment as subversive. They do not entirely share the moderates perception!tnat the "war against subversion is over-'14 Powerful corps commanders like Major General Carlos Guillermo ,Suarez Mason (formerly Commander, Corps I, Buenos. Aires) and Major General Luciano Benjamin Menendez (Corps III, Cordoba) continued throughout 1978 to condone counterterrorist tactics that ensured human rights abuses. (C) Other factors that diminished Videla!s cnances of achieving human rights reforms in 1978 included his August retirement as an active-duty officer and Army Commander and SECRET/NOFORN/NO. CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925_._ _ :S.3MOWWWWIN3MIYM3flOOW3I Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SEcRE`..r/NOFORN/NO, CONTRACT � -9- '4116419 a gradual increase in military and civilian disenchantment with the general economic and political performance of his government. Those conditions, plus the degree to which the Beagle Channel controversy with Chile dominated official attention during the last quarter of the year created highly improbable circumstances for bold human rights initiatives on Videla!s part. (C) The results of the recent army promotion/reassignment cycle appear to offer mixed prospects for human rights reforms. Moderates politically in sympathy with Videla and Army Commander Viola now may be in a position to exert more.effective control over the service. Particularly notable changes involved the following officers: - Suarez. Mason has been shifted from his Corps I commander slot to Army Chief of Staff. His new post is a prestigious one from which.he might be able to .aavance to the Commander in Chief's slot. Nonetheless, since he no longer has a troop command nor, more importantly, direct control over counterterrorist units, his promotion. is .probably a net short-term human rights gain. Major General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtderi has replaced Suarez Mason as Corps I commander. Galtieri most recently Commanded Corps II (Rosario) where he established a reputation for reasonableness and restraint, in human rights matters. It has been in his geographic jurisdiction, for example, that the most progress has been registered with respect to the judicial processing of PEN prisoners. If he displays the same tendencies as Corps I Commander, he will be a needed improvement over Suarez Mason. Major General Santiago Omar Riveros, another officer notorious for his permissive attitude toward human rights abuses, has been shifted from his sensitive Buenos Aires command (Military Institutes) to the Inter-American Defense Board. Major General Jose Montes will replace Riveros. A Videla-Viola loyalist, Montes could combine with Galtieri to give the moderates the potential for curbing the abuses heretofore characteristic of SECRET/NOFORN/NO, CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 S3/11:101,11i14161.0(N 3H1.LV 03311001k138 Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFQRN/NO CONTRACT -10- counterterrorist operations in the Buenos Aires area. Brig. General Juan Bautists Sassiaia's appointment as Chief of the National Police is an ominous move in human rights terms. A counterterrorist expert, Sassiain is reputedly rough and cruel. ycA Major General Luciano B. Menende,z, a fanatic on subversion who has condoned human rights violations by those under his command, remains the Corps III commander (Cordoba). Militarily, Menendez!s retention maybe attributable to the need for his services in the event of hostilities with Chile over the Beagle Channel. In human tights terts,. however, it means that the situation in Cordoba is not liable to improve in the near future. In all likelihood, the arMy command shifts will not result in immediate. and drastic human rights improvements, /5 but the political context appears to be more favorable than it has been/ since the March 1976 coup 16 Much will depend upon whether whether the Videla-Viola tandem chooses to exercise the necessary leadership, and perhaps ultimately upon .whether the Argentine public becomes sufficiently exercised over continuing abuses to demand change. (C) IAHRC visit. From the Argentine government's � perspective, the next critical human rights deadline is May 29 when the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) will begin a week-long on site investigation. . It is questionable, however, whether the prospect of the IAHRC visit will lead to fundamental changes in the tactics employed by the security forces and, thereby, open the way to long-term human rights advances. In this critical area, the army command chanses robabl offer more hope for reform than the IAHRC SECRET/NPFORN/NQ CONTRACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 006592925 SMIHOWbLLVH.LJ.V 030110021d3U Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECRET/NOFORN/NO CONTRACT FOOTNOTES Ag( t 1. HA Note: HA prefers the following wording for the text from sentence two of paragraph 1 through first sentence ot paragraph 3. "Although it is difficult to quantify precisely certain aspects of the situation - such as the-exact number of people killed.and tortured and the number being held in clandestine military camps - we receive a steady flow of detailed information from a wide variety of credible sources in Argentina about human rights events and conditions. These sources include our Embassy, and Amnesty Inter- national, Argentine Government.officials, Argentine human rights organizations, victims of arrest and torture, eyewitnesses to incidents ,of abduction and torture, and relatives of victims." 2. HA Note: No overall trend of improvement in category - one terms can be shown. There was substantial qualitative deterioration in at least two areas the widening scope of the victims of dis- appearance, and the worsening of treatment of political detainees. The simple passage of time can also be suviewed as a negative factor - another year of widespread violations long after any terrorist threats has passed. 3.3(b)(1) 3.3(b)(1) 3.3(b)(1) 3. HA Note: HA would again emphasize that despite uncertainties with quantitative material, the shift in targeting noted above is a significant negative development. 4. HA Note: However, Videla himself said last year that "A terrorist is not just someone with a gun or bomb but also someone, who spreads ideas that are contrary to Western and Christian civilization" (Reported in the London Times, January 4, .1978). INR and ARA view the inclusion of this statement attributed by the press to Videla as potentially misleading when used in the above context. The SECRET/NOFORN/NO. CONTACT - =Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 'S3M40kIV IVNOLIVN 31411V 0301100&1311 Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925 SECUT/KFORN/NO, CONTACT quote invites the inference that Videla supports the application of extreme security measures against those who have not committed violent terrorist acts. There is no evidence to support that contention. mAz 5. HA Note: The army command changes present .a mixed picture from which it is not possible to conclude that the overall political context for human rights improvement is more favorable than in the past. 6. S/P and HA Note":-. S/P and HA,. would delete this last sentence because it contradicts the assessment that the command changes are ("mixed. SECRET/NOFOKN/NO,cONTACT Approved for Release: 2018/10/01 C06592925