(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
SDCs were above all torture centres, with ’specialized’
personnel and rooms adapted for such ends, euphemistically
called ,operating theatres’, and a whole range of instruments
used in the various torture techniques. All this is analysed in
detail in the relevant chapter, but some reference is necessary
here insofar as this terrible experience was part of daily life
in the SDCs.
purpose of the first torture sessions was to ’soften up’
newly-arrived prisoners, and these were carried out by any of
the personnel. Once it had been established that the prisoner
had some information of interest to offer, sessions run by
special interrogators began. In other words, there wasn’t even
a prior assessment made as to whether the person they were going
to kidnap really knew anything of any interest to his captors.
of these indiscriminate methods, not only members of armed
groups but also their relatives, friends, colleagues at work or
school, political party activists, priests and laymen committed
to the problems of the poor, student activists, trade unionists,
neighbourhood leaders and - in a remarkably high number of cases
- people with no kind of trade union or political activity at
all, were all rounded up and tortured. It was enough to appear
in somebody’s address book to instantly become a target for
the notorious ’task forces’.
it can be understood how many of those tortured would declare
anybody guilty as long as their ordeal might end. According to
information supplied by a member of Task Force 2 (file No.
7170), after 1977 there was no longer any need to carry out
intelligence activity, as it simply became a matter of arresting
those people named by the prisoners themselves in the torture
sessions. That is why there are innumerable cases like that of
Jorge Berstrin (file No. 2803) who reports:
1 March 1977 I was at the house of a workmate, in the town of
General Roca, Río Negro, when a group of armed men burst in,
handcuffing both of us, hooding us and taking us in several
cars to a detention centre near the town of Neuquén. I later
found out why I had been arrested: the niece of the head of
personnel in the factory where I worked, who lived in Bahia
Blanca, had visited Roca and had been in the apartment from
which we were abducted, as she had been introduced at that
time to the owner, my colleague. The woman from Bahia Blanca,
who had this apartment in her address book, was arrested in
that town, turning up shortly after being ’killed in a
shoot-out’. A few days after her arrest they arrested both
of us, me because I happened to be there. When they realized
their mistake, they released us, first me and five days later
my colleague ...
In such a demented framework of persecution, to have too common
a surname brought with it the possibility of falling prey to
this kind of infamously arbitrary hunt. Raúl
Romero (file No. 2590) reported:
on 21 SeDtember 1977 at 19.30 hours he was arrested with his
wife in his home ...
He describes the terrible conditions in which both were held in
the SDC, later identified by him as the Pozo de Quilmes, and the
torture that went on there. He was released on 4 October that
year when his captors realized that he wasn’t Victor Hugo
Romero, a previous inhabitant of the deponent’s house who
unfortunately had the same surname.
from ’softening up’ and the extraction of information,
prisoners in the SDCs were likely to suffer torture for entirely
arbitrary reasons. Carlos
Enrique Ghezan (file No. 4151) reports:
would be beaten up and tortured for the slightest
transgression of certain rules of the detention camp. I saw
this on numerous occasions. Any event related to repression
outside the pozo, the
death of a soldier, a gun battle, politically significant
acts, events occurring in other parts of the world such as the
advances of theSandinista revolution, constituted a motive or
pretext for intensifying the repression...
was held in El Banco and Olimpo.
testimonies outline the various reasons given for the cruelty.
These included the mere fact of being held, for refusing to
cooperate as expected, or events completely unrelated to the
file No. 4152, Susana Leonor Caride tells us that she was
arrested-abducted at 11 p.m. on 2 6 July 1978 from her house,
551 Calle Fragata Presidente Sarmiento, Buenos Aires. They set
up a simulated execution. They made her listen to a tape with
children’s voices telling her that her mother and children
if I didn’t tell them where Dr Guillermo Díaz Lestrem
lived, they were going to torture my daughter, then ten years
old, saying that she was ’Just right for the ”machine
about midday I gave them Dr Lestrem’s telephone number, but
when they called he had already gone, so they beat me up
again, questioning me about my activities and the names of
people I didn’t know ...
I arrived they left me dumped in a yard and after a while they
took me to the ’machine’, a name given to the electric
prod, where they continued to torture me, I don’t recall for
how long since I was in such a sorry condition. Once again
they threw me down in the yard. leaving me there for a while
until they took me to a small room, where a torturer known as
’Julián the Turk’ began to hit and beat me with chains
and then with a whip, swearing and shouting at me. Then they
dumped me back in the yard again.
could feel my whole body stinging and hurting, made worse by
the salt water they threw over me ...
don’t know for how long I lay there: at some point I heard
someone ask about the events which had occurred in the
Planning Division of the Federal Police, where a bomb had
exploded, while someone else replied that ’it had been a
political act’. On hearing this, ’Julián the Turk’
began to shout and swear at us and ’chain’ us all. The
scene was Dantesque, since we were handcuffed and blindfolded
and had no idea where the blows were coming from. We fell over
each other, screaming with pain and horror. I
that other people were also hitting and kicking us: they
pulled us up by the hair when we fell down.When everything had
calmed down we could hear moans and panting. After a while, I
again had salt water thrown over my body, which was burnt and
raw all over, hearing ’Julián’ say that they had better
take me away, or he would kill me.
A different external circumstance, no longer a terrorist attack
but the instigation of judicial proceedings, would bring with it
the end of July or the beginning of August, as I had
completely lost track of time, I was dragged out of my cell
and taken to the operating theatre’. where they swore at me
and told me that Dr Diaz Lestrem had presented a writ of
habeas corpus for me ...
beat me up and, when they were going to take me to the
‘machine’, one of them hit me so hard in the ribs that I
couldn’t breathe, so they left me alone. (Result: two