Human Rights WatchWorld Report ContentsDownloadPrintOrderHRW Homepage

World map Argentina



Europe and Central Asia

Middle East and North Africa

Special Issues and Campaigns

United States


Children’s Rights

Women’s Human Rights


The Role of the International Community

European Union

On December 30, 1999, Spanish judge Baltazar Garzón issued an international arrest warrant for forty-eight former officers, previously indicted by him in November, with a view to making a formal extradition request. In August, Justice Minister Ricardo Gil Lavedra stated that the request involved "political questions" relating to national sovereignty, relevant to the executive not the courts, and indicated that the defendants would not be detained since their crimes had already been dealt with in Argentina.

The most encouraging development in Garzón's prosecution was the August 24 arrest of Ricardo Miguel Cavallo in Mexico. Cavallo, accused of being a former torturer in the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA), was allegedly implicated in the deaths of at least two people who "disappeared" under military rule. After the arrest, French judge Roger Le Loire also announced that he would seek Cavallo's extradition. Argentine Interior Minister Federico Storani indicated that the government would not intervene in the case and would take no steps to prevent extradition, although consular advice would be available to the detainee. On a September visit to Mexico, President De la Rúa said that he did not discuss the Cavallo case in his official meetings. When questioned by the press, he did, however, express support for the principle of territoriality, indicating that such crimes should be tried in Argentina.

Just a few weeks earlier, on August 6, former army Maj. Jorge Olivera was detained in Rome following an extradition request from French judge Le Loire. Olivera was accused of responsibility for the kidnapping, torture and "disappearance" of French citizen Marie Anne Erize in San Juan province on October 15, 1976. On September 18, however, an Italian court of appeal ordered Olivera's release on the basis of a purported death certificate indicating that Erize had died on November 11, 1976, although the certificate was later shown to have been falsified. Reasoning that Erize was not "disappeared" but dead, the court ruled that the statute of limitations under Italian law had run for the other crimes of which Olivera was accused.

The armed forces made no comment on the case while Olivera was in detention, but following Olivera's release army chief Brinzoni called the detention an offense against Argentine justice. He argued that Olivera had already been judged by the Argentine courts and released under the Due Obedience Law, noting, in addition, that the army was compiling information with a view to advising other military officers who might travel abroad and face prosecution for human rights violations.

In May, Le Loire requested authorization from the Argentine government to travel to the country in order to question some 140 military officers linked to the forced "disappearance" of French citizens. The petition was received by the Argentine Ministry of Justice days after the detention of Olivera, and was under consideration at this writing.

Suits against General Suárez Mason being pursued in the Italian courts since 1986, which involved the "disappearance" of eight people of Italian origin during the military government, were upheld by the First Penal Court of Rome in March. The court rejected the defense lawyers' argument that the cases were barred because of Argentina's Full Stop and Due Obedience Laws. In his ruling, judge Renato D'Andria also underscored the Argentine authorities' lack of cooperation with his investigations of these cases.


The Israeli Parliament announced in August that it had formed an inter-ministerial commission to investigate the fate of some 1,800 Jewish Argentines who "disappeared" in the period 1976 to 1983, in order to establish the whereabouts of their bodies and bury them with appropriate religious rites.

Organization of American States

The OAS special rapporteur on freedom of expression, Santiago Cantón, condemned the threats and attacks suffered by the newspapers El Liberal and La Voz del Interior, calling on provincial authorities to investigate the incidents and punish those found responsible. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) received 123 complaints relating to Argentina during 1999, and, as of mid-2000, maintained fifty-eight open cases on the country.

In one important case, the IACHR requested the Argentine government to provide information on police powers of detention. The commission was examining a controversial November 1998 decision of the Argentine Supreme Court, in which the court upheld the power of the police to detain a person, without an arrest warrant, solely on the grounds that he or she was deemed to have been acting "suspiciously."

The IACHR also reiterated its call for the thirteen prisoners convicted of the 1989 attack on the La Tablada barracks to be granted a new trial, in light of the serious irregularities marring the first proceedings. Abundant evidence suggested that the prisoners had been tortured while in the custody of the army, while others had been killed. On September 6, it was announced that the remains of Iván Ruíz and Carlos Quito Burgos, two of the five persons who "disappeared" after attacking the barracks, had been identified. Both had apparently been shot by members of the army, probably after capture. In Congress, a bill was introduced to permit the conditional release of the prisoners while their conviction was being reviewed, but as of this writing it had not been debated.

By invitation of the Argentine government, the IACHR was also to send an observer to review investigations of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association Association (Asociación Mutual Israelita-Argentina, AMIA), an attack in which eighty-six people died.

United States

On a brief visit to Buenos Aires in August, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with NGO representatives and Jewish community leaders, and promised U.S. government cooperation in investigating the AMIA bombing and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy. Albright also vowed to cooperate in the investigation of abuses that occurred during the military government, stating that she would seek to ensure that the State Department opened its archives on the repression of that period.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

Current Events

The Latest News - Archive














Copyright © 2001
Human RIghts Watch