(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Deaths in 'escape attempts' - file
The account of events given by the relatives of the victims of the tragic episode which took place near Margarita Belén in Chaco province is as follows:
In the early hours of the morning of 13 December 1976 an Army unit, backed up by members of the Provincial Police, transferred a group of prisoners from buildings belonging to the Provincial Police Headquarters, supposedly to the prison in the city of Formosa. This was strange, as the Resistencia Prison is one of the most secure in the country, while the one at Formosa is not very well protected.
When the unit had travelled about 30 kilometres, to a place near Margarita Belén on Highway No 2, all the prisoners were killed 'by bullet wounds'.
The official version is that a group of subversive delinquents attacked, with the apparent intention of freeing or killing the prisoners to prevent them making 'compromising statements'.
The names of all the dead were never discovered, but it was established that the only ones who died were the prisoners being transferred. There were no casualties among the alleged aggressors or the defenders.
Some of the prisoner victims came from Regional Unit No. 7 at Resistencia. They had been held there until 12 December, when they were taken to the police headquarters and put together with other political prisoners, then subjected to severe torture into the early hours of the 13th. The other prisoners heard the screams of the torture victims, and afterwards saw clear signs of suffering as they passed by on the way back to their cells.
In the early hours of the 13th a military unit arrived at the headquarters, claiming authorization for the transfer of a certain number of prisoners. A special entry was made for their transfer in the records, and there was written proof of the order for their transfer and handover, but these are no longer available as they were later destroyed.
A couple of days after the event military authorities flew over the scene of the tragedy in an official helicopter. We were able to ascertain its route from the flight plans at Chaco Government House and Resistencia Airport.
On the morning of 13 December, the then mayor of Resistencia ordered the authorities at the municipal cemetery to dig a number of graves and that afternoon police and troops arrived.
After clearing the buildings of people, they buried ten corpses, five of them with 'no name'. The only bodies identified were those of Manuel Parodi Ocampo, Patricio B. Tierno, Luis Alberto Díaz and Carlos Alberto Duarte, because the remains were taken to the common charnel house long before the time laid down by current municipal regulations.The corpses it was possible to exhume were completely naked.
Investigations have failed to provide answers to the following questions:
(1) How many prisoners were taken from Unit 7 jail on 12 December to be transferred to the headquarters?
(2) How many, and who, were taken to the headquarters from other places?
(3) How many, and which prisoners were taken from the headquarters in the early hours of 13 December?
(4) Who, exactly, were the victims of the Margarita Belén tragedy?
During its visit to this country the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human rights received a deposition on the death of the student Patricio Blas Tierno in this incident. After obtaining information from the Argentinian government of the time and in accordance with its own statutes, it resolved:
1. To conclude that the contents of the deposition made in September 1979 on the irregular circumstances surrounding the death of Señor Patricio Blas Tierno were true.
2. To declare that the government of Argentina had violated right of the individual to life, liberty, safety and security of person (Article I of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man).
The depositions on this incident were presented before the Federal Court of Resistencia, Chaco.