(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Deposition on secret burials in La Plata
In the La Plata Justice Department's penal court under Dr Pedro Luis Soria Jr a deposition was presented and a request made for investigations to identify corpses and determine the circumstances of their burial in the city's cemetery. It was said that the bodies were taken by night and burnt without the cemetery authorities being allowed to play any part.
A municipal official confirmed to the judge the existence of 295 unmarked graves and gave him the relevant documentation. (La Prensa newspaper, 29 and 30 October, 1983.)
Deposition on the existence of unmarked graves in Moreno
Members of the Rights and Guarantees Committee of the Province of Buenos Aires Parliament went to the Moreno Cemetery to the west of greater Buenos Aires on 22 December 1983 to start an investigation into the irregular burial of twenty-three unnamed corpses there, -including several minors. (Tiempo- Argentino newspaper, 23 December 1983.)
Exhumation of unnamed corpses at the Rafael Calzada Cemetery
A deposition formulated by the council of the Almirante Brown district before the penal court of Lomas de Zamora resulted in the discovery of fifteen bodies which had been buried secretly between 1976 and 1978 in ditches dug in the Rafael Calzada Cemetery in Buenos Aires. This number of skulls was found, two of them with traces of bullet perforations, and most of the bodies had had their hands cut off. (La Prensa, December 1983.)
Deposition on secret burials in the San Martín Cemetery
Sirio Augusto Gómez, a senator for Buenos Aires province, presented himself to make a deposition and testify before Federal Court No. 4, saying that in May 1976 unidentified corpses had been buried in graves in the San Martin Cemetery. The deposition was backed up by various employees of the cemetery before the judge concerned.
Señor Gómez said that the death certificates gave the cause of death as heart failure, but when the coffins were opened the remains of young men, pregnant women and teenagers with bullet wounds were found. (La Razón newspaper, 30 December 1983.)
Exhumation of corpses at the Grand Bourg Cemetery
Some 300 corpses registered with no name in the records of this cemetery were buried there during the years of the fight against terrorism, according to a deposition in the possession of Federal judge Hugo Gándara, who ordered the exhumations to be performed. Some ninety graves were found, each containing between three and five bodies, so that it is thought that the number of illegally buried bodies could be even greater than the figure mentioned. (Clarín newspaper, 13 January 1984.)
Irregular burials in the Avellaneda Cemetery - File N° 7316
The municipal administration of Avellaneda decided on 19 January 1983 to start legal proceedings to determine whether there had been irregularities in the burial of unidentified bodies in the town cemetery.
One detail about the burial of unidentified bodies was that up to May 1976 there had been few unmarked graves and these belonged to old people. From that date there was an abrupt increase, and the average age of the dead was much lower, about twenty-five. This continued until 1978, when the number went down again and things returned to normal, including the age of the dead. The director of the cemetery himself cannot be sure that all the burials in the common graves in the morgue area were registered in the appropriate records, and he explains this by the fact that the morgue was totally under police control, with entry confined to their personnel. The area functioned as an autonomous unit in relation to the cemetery authorities.
Common graves in the San Vicente Cemetery - File N° 1420
As will be seen, the procedure was not confined to one cemetery, or carried out without the knowledge of the military government.
An administrative petition sent to the President of the Nation by staff at the city of Córdoba Judicial Morgue on 30 June 1980 contains the following incredible passage:
It is impossible, Mr President, to give a true picture of what we experienced when we opened the doors of the rooms where the corpses were kept. Some of the bodies had been stored for more than thirty days without any sort of refrigeration. There was a cloud of flies and the floor was covered in a layer about 10.5 centimetres deep in worms and larvae, which we cleared away with buckets and shovels. The only clothes we had were trousers, overalls, boots and gloves, while some people had to do the work in their ordinary clothes. Mouth masks and caps were provided by the hospital administration thanks to the sub-director, as we did not have any. Despite all this we did not hesitate in carrying out the task as ordered. It should be noted that most of these bodies were of subversive delinquents. With morgue staff and technical autopsy assistants travelling in the back of the truck beside the corpses and a guard of two Provincial Police cars which had been assigned to the operation, we went to the San Vicente cemetery. The sight which met us at the cemetery was too horrible to relate. The police cars lit up the common grave where the bodies were deposited, identified by number and using the pillars in a nearby wall as reference points. Behind this and even from roof tops the neighbours watched the macabre task in progress.
It is even more incredible that the recipient of this took no action whatsoever.
One of those who sent the petition (about the extremely unhygienic working conditions), Francisco Rubén Bossio, gives the following account of the events he witnessed:
I noticed that we began to receive corpses which sometimes came with a 'name of sender', but usually without anything. This was in 1976. The corpses were usually brought in by the police and sometimes by the Gendarmería, the Army or joint groups of Security Forces. The officials who handed them over were lieutenants or sub-lieutenants whose names I don't remember. Sometimes they came with groups of ten or twelve soldiers, but I didn't pay much attention. These corpses had the following characteristics: they had bullet wounds, some with a lot of perforations, sometimes so many as eighty, sometimes seventeen, for example. They all had painted fingers and bore clear marks of torture. They had marks on their hands as if they had been tied with cords. From time to time one would appear completely torn to pieces, split open.
After the first batches came more of five, eight, seven. I must explain that the autopsies were carried out on bodies sent by the ordinary or federal judicial authorities, but that the subversives were not given autopsies, and came with just an order from the military judge and the death certificate already provided by the 3rd Corps or the police doctor.
An order was given for the bodies to be cleared from the hospital, which we did, as we have described in our petition to the then President of the Republic, General Videla, on 30 June 1980. We did it in two lorryloads, two journeys in the same lorry with thirty bodies at a time which were put into a ditch in the San Vicente cemetery. The pit was a new one, we inaugurated it. It measured roughly 36 or 40 metres long, 8 wide, and 6 or 7 deep. The municipality had dug the grave, and the machine was still there when we arrived. I've never seen such a big grave in my life.
After the Córdoba hospital we returned to the morgue of the San Roque hospital in Derember 1976, and around March 1977 we went back to the big pit - I can't remember how many we took. I went two or three days beforehand and saw that the pit was nearly full. It seemed to me that they had put in more bodies. I can't remember the exact number we took there. But I do remember clearly that the ditch was full to 1.5 metres from the top.
Señor José Adolfo Caro appeared next before the same officials:
I worked with Señor Bossio in the same job. Having read his entire statement I confirm it and would like to add the following: I remember that there was a Jewish girl who came tied up with wire. I saw her and they untied her at the morgue. I knew she was Jewish because once when people came to identify bodies some people saw her and recognized her, but I cannot give details as I don't remember and I could only be more exact if I saw the records, I confirm that there were pregnant women, one eight months pregnant, and another six. The figure of about 270 disappeared people who were buried comes from the morgue record book, which was the only one, where everyone in the service made their notes. It must be there.
The deposition on these events was lodged before Federal Court No. 3 in the city of Córdoba.