Security ministry refuses to hand over police files to institution investigating dictatorship crimes

Patricia Bullrich called the request ‘unfounded’ and ‘out of place’

The security ministry refused to hand over the personal files of dozens of security forces members requested by the National Identity Commission (CONADI, by its Spanish initials). The CONADI is a public organization dedicated to searching for the lost children of people who were forcibly disappeared during the last civic-military dictatorship in Argentina.

Minister Patricia Bullrich rejected over 70 “unfounded” requests made by the commission on the grounds that “they are out of place and exorbitant,” according to a press release published on Monday.

“The security ministry rejects that an organization can create an investigation unit with attributions akin to a prosecutors’ office, which is out of their jurisdiction,” the security ministry release said. “A nation’s security is a highly sensitive issue, as is the personal data of the officials in charge of it.”

Bullrich sent a note rejecting the CONADI’s requests on Sunday, alleging that they violate the security forces members’ right to intimacy as well as the Personal Data Protection law. She also condemned a 2004 government-issued decree that allowed CONADI to request police files via a special investigation unit to solve dictatorship-era child appropriation cases. This unit can investigate the potential participation of members of the armed or security forces in those crimes. 

“[CONADI] can start an investigation [against an armed or security forces member] without the need to have a clue or certain suspicion about them,” she said.

“A decree does not have enough authority to create an investigation unit that can intervene or request files outside of the ministry it belongs to,” the note added. CONADI is part of the human rights secretariat, which belongs to the justice ministry.

The text pointed out that “the Attorney General’s Office is the only one authorized to investigate and promote judicial actions aimed at trying crimes before the national judiciary.”

What is CONADI’s mission

CONADI was created in 1992 with the goal of searching for disappeared people’s children who were illegally taken from their families by the military dictatorship. These children were later raised with new identities. CONADI works closely with the National Genetic Database. 

In line with its objective of guaranteeing the right to identity, CONADI has extended its scope in recent years and has begun working with child trafficking cases and reuniting biological family members.

CONADI only requests documentation and personal files from ministries and other public institutions when a witness or a person who is seeking to find their true identity mentions that a member of the armed or security forces was involved in an alleged crime  — most of the officials are already retired, given that they are dealing with things that happened  are over 40 years ago. 

These information requests are confidential and the names are never made public. Most of them are aimed at dismissing officers as potential child appropriators, but sometimes they are used to follow a clue about other members of the forces. Only if there is a certainty that that person committed a crime is the case taken to trial.

Two weeks ago, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo President Estela de Carlotto warned that the CONADI and the National Genetic Database could be at risk if Congress approves President Javier Milei’s massive reform bill known as Ley Bases.

The proposal, which the Lower House has already passed and is expected to be voted on by senators soon, includes an article that allows the executive power to modify or eliminate public organizations. Although there is a list of institutions exempted from these measures, the commission and the database are not on it.

“The database and the CONADI are part of the Argentine state’s policies created to comply with international human rights commitments and are an integral part of our constitution,” Carlotto said during a Senate commission meeting. “Failing to comply with this could potentially compromise Argentina’s international commitments.”

Thanks to the work of these two organizations, 137 people who were either forcibly taken from their disappeared parents or born while their parents were illegally detained during the dictatorship and raised by other families, recovered their true identity. 

“We are still looking for 300 other grandchildren,” de Carlotto said.

You may also be interested in: How the grandmothers of disappeared children drove a revolution in genetics

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