Truth Trial over José León Suárez 1956 executions starts today

Plaintiffs expect it to be declared a crime against humanity

The Truth Trial over the José León Suárez executions against militants who were plotting to overthrow Pedro Eugenio Aramburu’s dictatorship will start its proceedings today, almost 67 years after the murders. 

During the first stage, the court will only hear testimonies. The trial will begin once this instance is completed, possibly after the mid-year judiciary recess in July. It will be led by Judge Alicia Vence. 

The process was pushed by the San Martín Memory, Truth and Justice commission, which filed a request for the judiciary to investigate and try crimes committed by the Aramburu dictatorship. 

Truth Trials in Argentina aim to provide information and a space for testimonies in cases where the accused cannot be tried for different reasons. They serve as a form of symbolic reparation for the victims, their descendents or their communities – as well as a State acknowledgment of those crimes. 

The José León Suárez executions

On the night of June 9, 1956, a dozen civilians (including Peronist militants, union workers and people who just opposed the dictatorship) were taken to a dumpster area in the San Martín district in northwest Buenos Aires and shot – five of them died, while the others survived. 

Most of them were detained by local police while waiting for a signal to be given through a radio broadcast indicating them to take part in an uprising planned and led by General Juan José Valle, a dissident member of the military government. The uprising was meant to take place in the entire country, but was rapidly squashed by the Aramburu government. The José León Suárez shootings were the first of a series of killings that took place between June 9 and 12, including the murder of Valle. 

The story of that night was told in the 1957 book Operation Massacre by Rodolfo Walsh, considered to be a precursor of what is currently known as “new journalism”. Walsh, a writer and journalist who reported on cases involving state terrorism and violence, was killed by the military junta dictatorship in 1977. 

The Herald spoke to court representatives, who explained the process and challenges of investigating the crimes more than 60 years later. The Truth Trial’s goal is to establish what happened that night, recover archives and documents issued by authorities at the time and gather testimony from family members, journalists and survivors of the massacre. 

Juan José Livraga, the sole survivor of the killings, was called today to testify before the court, but had to cancel due to health reasons. Family members of the survivors will testify next week, followed by almost 10 other indirect witnesses. 

Meanwhile, court members are working thoroughly to find any relevant documents and archives related to the events. Not much evidence was kept during those years about the military’s crimes. Furthermore, all suspects and potential culprits, such as Aramburu, are already dead. However, the plaintiffs request the Truth Trial label the events “state terrorism and crimes against humanity”. It is not yet been established if there will be any further reparations in case Judge Alicia Vence finds these claims to be true.


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