UN complaint filed against Defense Minister Petri over army archives closure

The Defense Ministry fired 10 out of 13 employees whose work provided key information on dictatorship-era crimes against humanity

Buenos Aires legislator Victoria Montenegro filed a complaint against Defense Minister Luis Petri before the United Nations after the Defense Ministry shut down a state program investigating archives from the Armed Forces which was key for trials processing dictatorship-era crimes.

“These workers are technical experts who have worked for many years to provide the judiciary with sufficient evidence so that trials against those who committed heinous crimes against humanity can be carried out,” Montenegro said in a press conference on Friday.

Ten out of 13 workers of the Compiling and Analysis Teams were fired two weeks ago amid a massive wave of public sector layoffs. The government programs where they worked were shut down and the statutes that created them were overturned.

“An army colonel closed the office where they worked and demanded they provide their personal computers and memory sticks to verify if they had saved any sensitive information there,” Montenegro told the press via WhatsApp on Friday. “There are no other people with 14 years of experience learning to read and understand these hieroglyphic documents,” she added.

On Thursday, Montenegro sent the complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Guarantees of Nonrecurrence — a position currently occupied by Argentine human rights lawyer Fabián Salvioli — asking him to intervene.

In the document, she explained that there are 17 ongoing trials for crimes against humanity committed by security forces during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, for which “the government areas created by the state to help in these investigations are key.” 

The Compiling and Analysis Teams were created 14 years ago, combing through over 17,000 armed forces and Defense Ministry files that have been useful in over 170 trials, according to Montenegro. The dismissal of three-quarters of the workers hinders the remaining employees’ ability to work properly.

“These measures have a direct impact on the [dictatorship’s] victims, their families and society’s right to know the truth about what happened, and to investigate, try and accordingly sentence those responsible,” Montenegro added in the note.

Montenegro held a press conference on Friday with fellow BA legislator Alejandrina Barry, alongside the fired employees and human rights leaders to publicly condemn the layoffs. Both Montenegro and Barry are daughters of political activists and militants who were murdered by the dictatorship.

“This is taking place at the same time the government is calling for an era of reconciliation with the armed forces,” Montenegro said during the press conference.

Angélica Enz, one of the fired employees who was at the press conference, said that 30 ongoing investigations will no longer be receiving the documentation provided by the teams. “This is the first time in 15 years that there will be no civilian investigator working within the armed forces,” added fellow dismissed employee Hernán López, who had already been fired in 2018 and reincorporated to the teams in recent years.

Human rights lawyers Pablo Llonto and Mariana Maurer have requested Argentine judge Daniel Rafecas to issue a stay against the dismissals. Llonto said more judicial measures are expected to be filed in the upcoming days.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald