(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Collaboration of prisoners
most of the large detention centres, the authorities managed to
obtain, through torture, various forms of collaboration by some
of the prisoners. With
them they created groups which, like auxiliary bodies, carried
out maintenance and administrative tasks in the SDCs, or, to a
much lesser degree, participated in tasks more directly
concerned with repression. Thus many of them went out to
’cruise’ - which in the jargon of repression meant touring
the city with their captors to identify on the street other
members of their political group. There have even been cases
reported of members of these groups directly taking part in the
torture of other prisoners. The authorities of some
establishments (e.g. El Vesubio SDC) housed these people in
rooms designated as ’broken persons’’ rooms. They were
often exhibited to their superiors as trophies.
these victims were on the whole treated better than the rest of
the inmates of the SDCs, sometimes being allowed to visit their
relatives and keep in touch with them by telphone, many of them
are now listed as having disappeared.
Roberto Omar Ramirez (file No. 3524), who was abducted on 27
June 1978 in the Capitol Cinema in Buenos Aires, went through
the El Banco, Olimpo and Navy Mechanics School SDCs, which meant
that he became very familiar with the structure and operation of
these bodies. He explains what the’Council’ or ’Staff’
abducted person, once admitted into the camp, immediately got
a proposal of voluntary cooperation. For the repressive forces
this meant the opportunity to save time, since any resistance
to torture would get in the way of their plan of operation.
Through psychological action based on terror and isolation,
prisoners were constantly faced with the dilemma of improved
living conditions in the camp in exchange for collaboration.
This was a procedure which would generally begin at very
subtle levels - cleaning the corridors and toilets - but
essentially it led to the prisoners’ gradual loss of
ideological reference. When cooperation turned into
willingness to carry out the role of interrogating and even
torturing other prisoners, the repressors would have had their
victory over people who could have been expected to find their
own way out of the extreme situation in which they found
themselves, at whatever the cost. In general, the military
directed this psychological action at prisoners of a certain
level of responsibility in a political organization - a method
with precedents in Nazi
concentration camps and in all similar set-ups since then.
in the El Banco and Olimpo camps, where operational
requirements were taken care of by the prisoners themselves
who were assigned to service and/or intelligence tasks,
depended on differentiation. All those prisoners who were
responsible for some task on a regular basis (cleaning,
repairs, etc.) constituted a group called the ’Council’.
This group comprised all those prisoners with a special skill
(photography, drawing, mechanics, electronics, etc.) or who
could carry out a task (washing, cooking, ironing, sewing,
car-washing, etc.). The ’Council’ was also made up of
prisoners who were members of the ’camp intelligence’...
composition of the ’Council’ would change after each
transfer, if some prisoner who was a member left the camp. The
only stable ones were the collaborators belonging to ’camp
intelligence’ and those working as doctors or forging
documents. The other roles would be replaced several times ...
prisoners reached the position of carrying out certain tasks,
their meals and gradually their sleeping arrangements would
improve considerably, with a progressive removal of the hood
would be granted in stages. First there would be a period of
communication by telephone, later the prisoner would be taken
to see his family, accompanied by camp personnel. After a
time, the prisoner would go ’on leave’ to join his family.
At some stage, without prior notice, he would be conditionally
released. Control consisted of weekly reports back at first,
then fortnightly and finally monthly…
ex-prisoners were authorized, after more than a year of this
regime of freedom, to live abroad, in countries previously
approved by the military command. There were some prisoners
who spent more than three years in the condition of
’hostage’ of the camp. I spent two years before deciding
to run the risk of arranging my exile.
far we have presented a sketch of the main characteristics of
the secret detention centres found during our Commission’s
the following pages there is a detailed description of some of
we report on procedures carried out by the Commission on
Disappeared People on the sites of these centres, with the
participation of ex-prisoners who identified the installations,
pointing out modifications which have been made.
were dismantled or demolished prior to the 1979 visit by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS.
we know to date about many of them are fragmentary references,
possibly because they were only used for very brief periods,
which made pinpointing their location difficult.
existence resolves the greatest question about the forced
disappearance of persons in recent years: this was where they
had been. These centres had people running them; were part of
operational areas; detailed lists were drawn up which recorded
admissions, transfers, and departures of prisoners.
we have the physical proof of the disappearances, and,
consequently, the possibility of finding an answer to the fate
of those who one day found themselves engulfed in a horror which
still casts its shadow over us today.