(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
when I was set free someone had asked me:
did they torture you a lot?
I would have replied:
Yes, for the whole of the three months ...
If I were asked that same question today,
I would say that I’ve now lived through seven years of
D’Agostino - file No. 3901.)
nearly all the cases brought to the attention of the Commission,
the victims speak of acts of torture. Torture was an important
element in the methodology of repression. Secret torture centres
were set up, among other reasons, to enable the carrying out of
torture to be carried out undisturbed.
existence and widespread use of different forms of torture is
particularly frightening because of the perverse imagination
demonstrated, and the character of the people who carried it
out, as well as of those who supported its use and employed it
as a means to an end. In drawing up this report, we wondered
about the best way to deal with the theme so that this chapter
did not turn into merely an encyclopedia of horror. We could
find no way to avoid this. After all, what else were these
tortures but an immense display of the most degrading and
indescribable acts of degradation, which the military
governments, lacking all legitimacy in power, used to secure
power over a whole nation?
have included the full version of the first of these cases,
since it is typical of all of them. From it we can understand
both the physical and mental suffering inflicted on the victims.
We are quoting it in full to show the extent to which it
affected the personality of the person whom the torturers were
trying to destroy. In the other cases we mention, we have kept
only those parts describing the methods of torture used.
we are well aware of, and share, the feeling of dismay which the
bald narration we set down here will arouse in torture victims
and their families, who were made to suffer so much. We know
only too well the anguish that a detailed knowledge of this
Norberto Liwsky (file No. 7397) is a doctor, married to Hilda
Norma Ereñu. They
have two small daughters. In 1976, he lived in a community housing estate in La
Matanza, Buenos Aires, and worked in the medical dispensary
there. Following complaints and action by residents of the
housing estate to get legal recognition for their community,
there was a raid on the night of 25 March 1976. During this,
Cirila Benitez, the wife of the neighbourhood association’s
president, was arrested. The next day, uniformed forces wrecked
several houses and Dr Liwsky’s dispensary. They abducted Mario
Portela, a housing association representative.
He was found dead twelve hours later.
years afterwards, when a mass was called to celebrate the
freeing of Señora Benitez, several people were kidnapped. On 5
April 1978, at approximately 10 p.m., Dr Liwsky arrived at his
flat in Flores, in Buenos Aires city:
I was inserting the key in the lock I realized what was
happening, because the door was pulled inwards violently and I
jumped back, trying to escape. Two shots (one in each leg)
stopped me. However, I still put up a struggle, and for
several minutes resisted, being handcuffed and hooded, as best
I could. At the same time, I was shouting at the top of my
lungs that I was being kidnapped, begging my neighbours to
tell my family, and to try to stop them taking me away.
exhausted and blindfolded, I was told by the person who
apparently was in command that my wife and two daughters had
already been captured and ’disappeared’.
had to drag me out, since I couldn’t walk because of the
wounds in my legs. As we were leaving the building, I saw a
car with a flashing red light in the street. By the sound of
the voices and commands, and the slamming of car doors,
interspersed with shouts from my neighbours, i presumed that
this was a police car.
several minutes of heated argument, the police car left. The
others then took me out of the building and threw me on to the
floor of a car, possibly a Ford Falcon, and set off.
hauled me out of the car in the same way, carrying me between
four of them. We crossed four or five metres of what by the
sound of it was a gravelled yard, then they threw me on to a
table. They tied me by my hands and feet to its four corners.
first voice I heard after being tied up was of someone who
said he was a doctor. He told me the wounds on my legs were
bleeding badly, so I should not try to resist in any way.
I heard another voice. This one said he was the ’Colonel’.
He told me they knew I was not involved with terrorism or the
guerrillas, but that they were going to torture me because I
opposed the regime, because: ’I hadn’t understood that in
Argentina there was no room for any opposition to the Process
of National Reorganization.’ He then added: ’You’re
going to pay dearly for it ... the poor won’t have any
goody-goodies to look after them any morel’
happened very quickly. From the moment they took me out of the
car to the beginning of the first electric shock session took
less time than I am taking to tell it. For days they applied
electric shocks to my gums, nipples, genitals, abdomen and
ears. Unintentionally, I managed to annoy them, because, I
don’t know why, although the shocks made me scream, jerk and
shudder, they could not make me pass out.
then began to beat me systematically and rhythmically with
wooden sticks on my back, the backs of my thighs, my calves
and the soles of my feet. At first the pain was dreadful. Then
it became unbearable. Eventually I lost all feeling in the
part of my body being beaten. The agonizing pain returned a
short while after they finished hitting me. It was made still
worse when they tore off my shirt, which had stuck to the
wounds, in order to take me off for a fresh electric shock
session. This continued for several days, alternating the two
tortures. Sometimes they did both at the same time.
a combination of tortures can be fatal because, whereas
electric shock produces muscular contractions, beating causes
the muscle to relax (as a form of protection). Sometimes this
can bring on heart failure.
between torture sessions they left me hanging by my arms from
hooks fixed in the wall of the cell where they had thrown me.
they put me on to the torture table and stretched me
out, tying my hands and feet to a machine which I can’t
describe since I never saw it, but which gave me the feeling
that they were going to tear part of my body off.
one point when I was face-down on the torture table, they
lifted my head then removed my blindfold to show me a
bloodstained rag. They asked me if I recognized it and,
without waiting for a reply - impossible anyway because it was
unrecognizable, and my eyesight was very badly affected - they
told me it was a pair of my wife’s knickers. No other
explanation was given, so that I would suffer all the more ...
then they blindfolded me again and carried on with their
days after I entered this ’pit’, they brought my wife,
Hilda Nora Ereñu, to my cell. I could scarcely see her, but
she seemed in a pitiful state. They only left us together for
two or three minutes, with one of the torturers present. When
they took her away again,
thought (I later learned that both of us had thought the same)
that this would be the last time we saw each other. That it
end for both of us. Despite the fact that I was told she had
been set free with some other people, the next news I had of
her was after I had been put into official custody at the
Gregario de Laferrre police station, and she came at the first
visiting time with my daughters.
two or three occasions they also burnt me with a metal
instrument. I didn’t see this either, but I had the
impression that they were pressing something hard into me. Not
like a cigarette, which gets squashed, but something more like
a red-hot nail.
day they put me face-down on the torture table, tied me up (as
always), and calmly began to strip the skin from the soles of
my feet. I imagine, though I didn’t see it because I was
blindfolded, that they were doing it with a razor blade or a
scalpel. I could feel them pulling as if they were trying to
separate the skin at the edge of the wound with a pair of
pincers. I passed out. From then on, strangely enough, I was
able to faint very easily. As for example on the occasion
when, showing me more bloodstained rags, they said these were
my daughters’ knickers, and asked me whether I wanted them
to be tortured with me or separately.
began to feel that I was living alongside death. When I
wasn’t being tortured I had hallucinations about death -
sometimes when I was awake, at other times while sleeping.
they came to fetch me for a torture session, they would kick
the door open and shout at me, flailing out at everything in
their way. That is how I knew what was going to happen even
before they reached me. I lived in a state of suspense waiting
for the moment when they would come to fetch me.
most vivid and terrifying memory I have of all that time was
of always living with death. I felt it was impossible to
think, I desperately tried to summon up a thought in order to
convince myself I wasn’t dead. That I wasn’t mad. At the
same time, I wished with all my heart that they would kill me
as soon as possible.
was a constant struggle in my mind. On the one hand: ’I must
remain lucid and get my ideas straight again’; on the other:
’Let them finish me off once and for all’. I had the
sensation of sliding towards nothingness down a huge slippery
tube where I could get no grip. I felt that just one clear
thought would be something solid for me to hold on to and
prevent my fall into the void. My memory of that time is at
once so concrete and so personal and private that the image I
have of it is of an intestine existing both inside and outside
my own body.
the midst of all this terror, I’m not sure when, they took
me off to the ’operating theatre’. There they tied me up
and began to torture my testicles. I don’t know if they did
this by hand or with a machine. I’d never experienced such
pain. It was as though they were pulling out all my insides
from my throat and brain downwards. As though my throat,
brain, stomach and testicles were linked by a nylon thread
which they were pulling on, while at the same time crushing everything. My only wish was for them to succeed
in pulling all my insides out so that I would be completely
empty. Then I passed out.
knowing how or when, I regained consciousness and they were
tugging at me again. I fainted a second time.
that moment, fifteen or eighteen days after my abduction, I
began to have kidney problems, difficulties with passing
water. Three-and-a-half months later, when I was a prisoner in
Villa Devoto prison, the doctors from the International Red
Cross diagnosed acute renal failure of a traumatic origin,
which could be traced to the beatings I had undergone.
being held for twenty-five days in complete isolation, I was
thrown into a cell with another person. This was a friend of
mine, a colleague from the dispensary, Dr Francisco Garcia
was in very bad shape. It was Ferndndez who gave me the first
minimal medical attention, because in all that time I had been
unable to think of cleaning or looking after myself.
was only several days later that, by moving the blindfold
slightly, I could see all they had done to me. Before that
it,had been impossible, not because I didn’t try to remove
the blindfold, but because my eyesight had been so poor. It
was then for the first time that I saw the state of my
testicles ... I remembered that as a medical student I saw, in
the famous Houssay textbook, a photograph of a man who,
because of the enormous size of his testicles, wheeled them
along in a wheelbarrow! Mine were of similar dimensions, and
were coloured a deep black and blue.
day they took me out of my cell and, despite my swollen
testicles, placed me face-down again. They tied me up and
raped me slowly and deliberately by introducing a metal object
into my anus. They then passed an electric current through the
object. I cannot describe how everything inside me felt as
though it were on fire.
that, the torture eased. They only gave me beatings two or
three times a week. Now they used their hands and feet rather
than metal or wooden instruments.
to this new, relatively mild policy, I began to recover’
physically. I had lost more than 25 kilos and was suffering
from the kidney complaint I’ve already mentioned.
months prior to my abduction, in February 1978, I had suffered
a recurrence of typhoid fever. Somewhere between 20 and 25
May, in other words forty-five or fifty days after my capture,
I fell ill again with typhoid owing to my physical exhaustion.
In addition to the physical torture employed from the very
beginning, torture of a psychological nature (already mentioned
to some extent) was used throughout the period of imprisonment,
even after the interrogations and physical torture had ceased.
There were also countless attempts to humiliate and degrade the
normal attitude of the torturers and guards towards us was to
consider us less than slaves. We were objects. And useless,
troublesome objects at that. They would say: ’You’re
dirt.’ ’Since we ”disappeared” you, you’re nothing.
Anyway, nobody remembers you.’ ’You don’t exist.’
’If anyone were looking for you (which they aren’t), do
you imagine they’d look for you here?’ ’We are
everything for you.’ ’We are justice.’ ’We are God.’
like these, repeated endlessly. By all of them. All the time,
and often accompanied by a slap, trip, punch or kick. Or they
would drench our cell, mattress and clothes at two in the
morning, in winter. As the weeks went by, I began to identify
voices and names among them: Tiburón
(Shark), Víbora (Snake), Rubio (Blondie),
Panza (Potbelly), Tete
(Dummy). Also the sound of movements (together with my
previous idea about the route I was sure we had taken)
gradually led me to believe that the detention centre must be
police premises. Piecing together the clues (there was also a
police station close by, and a school - I heard girls singing
- and a church, from the sound of the bells) it appeared that
the place was the detective squad headquarters in San Justo.
those kept prisoner with me, whom I could identify because I
heard their voices and they told me their names, despite being
in separate cells, were: Aureliano Araujo, Olga Araujo, Abel
de León, Amalia Marrone, Atilio Barberan, Jorge Heuman, Raúl
Petruch and Norma Ereñú.
1 June, the day the World Cup football began, I was
blindfolded and taken with six more of the
detained-disappeared prisoners in a van (piled like sacks one
on top of the other) to a place which turned out to be the
Gregorio de Laferrère police station.
of the most enthusiastic torturers took part in our transfer.
I am also certain that he was the person who shot me when I
was kidnapped. The route and time taken confirmed my
hypothesis as to the location of the detention centre.
fact which became extremely important later on, was my
professional participation from 1971 in a Model School for the
Social Integration of Handicapped Children, set up in 1963.
The school was in Hurlingham, part of Morón, Buenos Aires
18 August, after spending two months in a police cell (one
night they made me sign a piece of paper - with my eyes
blindfolded - which was later used as my initial statement to
the Regular Court Martial 1/1), they took me to the regimental
headquarters at Palermo, Buenos Aires. There the magistrate
of the charges against me. Among them was the fact that I had
worked at the Model School in Hurlingham.
my trial I denounced all the violations of my rights,
Including torture, the looting of my home, and having been
forced to sign a statement without being able. to read it.
Dr Norberto Liwsky was brought before a military court: the
Military Tribunal. This court declared itself incompetent to
judge the case as it had no charges to bring. He was then handed
over to the civilian courts, who immediately dismissed the case.
All the martyrdom related here was suffered by someone against
whom no charges were ever brought.
Oscar Martín Guidone, resident in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza
province (file No. 6837), we can see another consequence of
torture. He states that he was arrested by an army patrol and
taken to the regimental headquarters. There, on 2 June 1976,
after a week:.
they handcuffed him to a wall, with his arms spread out, so
that he was only able to stand on tiptoe. They threatened and
insulted him constantly. They began to hit him with something
hard, like boxing gloves but larger, covering over half his
abdomen every time they hit him. This lasted for about three
hours. They questioned him about names and people. That was
called a ’softening up session’.
took him to the cell in such a terrible state that people who
were being held in the block began banging on the bars,
demanding that he be seen to immediately. He was taken to the
military hospital where he was seen by doctors. Armed guards
were stationed at the door. Their orders were that not even
the President of the Republic was to enter. Ex-Governor Martínez Baca next door.
the doctors told him that they knew he had studied medIcine,
so that he would know what a secondary rupture of the spleen
was, and that they would have to operate. They operated on him
in that hospital the next day, performing a laparotomy.
gave him medical treatment while he was tied up. After twenty
days he was sent back to the 8th Regiment (which is next door
to the military, hospital). They even allowed him to continue
reading medical books. Because of his knowledge, he helped
other prisoners after the torture sessions: Forty-five days
after his operation, they tied his hands and blindfolded him,
taking him by truck on a very short journey to a torture
centre. One of those taking him was very short of breath, as
though drugged. They got him down
from the truck and one of them said to him, ’We’re off to
a bad start,’ as Guidone had trodden on his foot. They
questioned him about his ideology; he replied that he didn’t
have any. With each negative reply they made him remove an
item of clothing, until he was completely naked.
that they bound him with chains, face up on a table, his limbs
spread apart. They began to torture him with electric prods,
blaming him for the dismissal of two colleagues who, when they
had tortured him earlier, had caused the physical problems
which led to his operation. They fired shots over his body and
constantly threatened to take his life and kill his family.
This torture lasted for some two or three hours. In the last
part of the torture they applied a huge voltage which made his
body contract so violently that he broke the chains holding
him down. They taunted him, saying that his moustache was more
like that of a Fascist than a Communist, and that he had
chosen the wrong ideology. The effects of this session lasted
for several days, causing a deep depression with physical
August 1978 he was released.
Luis Alberto Urquiza, a psychology student, joined the NCO
Training School of the Córdoba Provincial Police on 1 November
1974. He was repeatedly harassed about his university studies by
the training officer. Subsequently, following many episodes
related at length by the witness, he graduated and began to work
in various sections covering ’intelligence’, and was then
himself taken prisoner.
Urquiza’s testimony (file No. 3847) was made on 22 March 1984
in Copenhagen, at the Embassy of the Argentine Republic it
Denmark. His arrest took place in Córdoba on 12 November 1976.
He suffered tortures which will be detailed in our discussion of
what is generically termed submarino
(immersion) and simulated execution.
then the beatings began. The next day I was again beaten up by
several people. I recognized the voice of Chief Inspector
Roselli, who went to visit the office because of our arrest,
and I was able to recognize the voice of the adviser to the
Chief of Police, a lieutenant-colonel who also hit me.
Throughout the day I was punched and kicked by people going
past. On the third day I was beaten up in the afternoon by
several people, one of whom asked me if I recognized him. He
was Warrant Officer Dardo Rocha, ex-instructor at the Police
Training School and at that time carrying out duties in
Signals Division. From the sharp pain I experienced in
breathing, I could feel I had several cracked ribs; I asked
the officer on duty for a doctor, but this was refused. On 15
November I was again beaten up, especially at night, by a
group of men from the Intelligence Squad. They stood me in the
middle of a circle of people and I would be propelled by
punches and kicks towards the group, and from there back to
the centre of the circle. If I fell I was trodden on and
pulled up again by the hair.
the early hours of the 16th I was taken to the toilet by the
officer on duty, Francisco Gontero, who, from a distance of
four or five metres, loaded his 45-calibre gun and fired three
shots, one of which went through my right leg at the height of
my knee. I was left standing bleeding, for some twenty
minutes. The same person then ripped my trousers and poked a
stick and then his finger into the wound. When other people
arrived, this officer said that I had tried to grab the gun
from him and escape. I was separated from the rest of the
prisoners and put in a dark room. I was not allowed to go to
the toilet, having to perform my natural functions in my
trousers. I was examined by a doctor, who gave me an injection
and tranquillizers. I was given no other medication, though my
leg was bandaged. This doctor was the forensic doctor on duty
at the police clinic that day.
the 16th I was hit, especially on the wounded leg. I spent
two days on the floor, unable to recall anything else because
of the intense pain and my state of semi-consciousness.
Luis Alberto Urquiza was released in August 1978 for lack of
evidence, remaining in Argentina until September 1979. Dr
Teresita Hazurun (file No. 1127), Argentine, a lawyer by
profession, was abducted at 11 a.m. on Saturday 20 November
1976. She was taken by the Chief of Police himself, making no
attempt to resist, believing that she was required
professionally for a detainee.
Hazurun was subjected to the usual tortures (beatings and the
electric prod) as well as other new procedures which she saw
applied to others, such as the ’burial’ she describes in her
account. She was taken to the offices of the State Intelligence
Services in CaIle Belgrano, in the town of Frías, Santiago del
the 22nd (Monday) at 8 p.m., two people came and took her to a
room behind the offices. They began punching her in the
stomach and face. She was interrogated by Musa Assar (whom she
recognized by his voice).
asked her about her ex-boyfriend Hugo Libaak, what he was
doing, whom he met. Unable to get any reply, they laid her
down on a bed, where they applied the electric prod to various
parts of her body.
people arrived at the offices they would be taken to pits
which, had been dug in the ground; they were buried there up
to the neck, sometimes for four days or more, until they asked
to be taken out, having decided to talk. They were kept
without food or water, in the sun and rain. When they were dug
out (they were buried naked) they would be infested with sores
from insect and ant bites. From there they would be taken to
the torture chamber (next door there was a room where the
there said that the torturer was the captain of the Rural
Infantry. They had an instrument of torture known as the
’telephone’ (an electric prod applied simultaneously to
the ears and teeth).