Human rights lawyer and former Herald writer Horacio Méndez Carreras dies at 86

The Argentine attorney represented the French state in the dictatorship trials for the murder of nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet

Human rights attorney and former Herald columnist Horacio Méndez Carreras died on Monday, April 29, at the age of 86. 

Méndez Carreras was a plaintiff in key trials for crimes against humanity committed during the 1976-83 dictatorship. As an attorney, he represented France in a trial regarding the disappearance and murder of French nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet, one of the most infamous crimes of the Military Junta.    

Born in Buenos Aires, Méndez Carreras graduated from the University of Buenos Aires’ Law School in 1962. He went on to work on human rights cases and later became a member of the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS, for its Spanish initials) and a collaborator of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. 

He spent 10 years as a collaborator in the Buenos Aires Herald, where he published a weekly column called “The Law”, where he openly denounced the dictatorships’ crimes against humanity. His work as an attorney also resulted in the judicial raid of clandestine detention center El Olimpo in 1982. This operation, conducted while still under the rule of the dictatorship, was the first raid ever on these death camps.

In 1984, the French state hired him to act as a plaintiff in trials involving the disappearance of French citizens. One of the most highly publicized affairs was the Domon and Duquet case, due to the circumstances of their disappearance. 

A Navy task force kidnapped the women in December 1977. Duquet and Domon were abducted together with a slew of people who were searching for relatives disappeared by the military. They were all taken to the concentration camp the Navy ran at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA, for its Spanish initials). 

The women were foreigners and the dictatorship feared a potential backlash. Because of this, military authorities spread a fake picture of them, claiming Peronist armed organization Montoneros had abducted them. The nuns were eventually taken aboard an airplane in a “vuelo de la muerte” and thrown into the Rio de la Plata. 

Their bodies washed up on the shore in Santa Teresita a few days later and were buried, unidentified, in mass graves. In 2005, the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology (EAAF) managed to identify Douquet’s body. 

The members of the task force, including infamous captain Alfredo Astiz, were tried in several ESMA-related cases after the annulment of 1980s legislation that protected dictatorship agents from prosecution.

“I remember him having lunch at the Jockey Club and then straight to the courts to bring Astiz to trial. A true hero!,” former Herald editor and writer Uki Goñi posted on his X account.

Goñi also remembered Méndez Carreras upper-class origins and how he liked to comically refer to himself as “the only living left-wing member of the Jockey Club.” 

“When he invited me to lunch, people went quiet as he walked by because of the sting caused by his quest for justice over dictatorship crimes.”


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