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Part I
The Repression

Nunca Más (Never Again) - Report of Conadep  - 1984


L. Documentation


Decree No. 187/83 which created the Commission on Disappeared People directs in article 2, paragraph d, that the organization should

'Denounce any attempt to conceal or withhold evidence relating to matters being investigated'.

The work undertaken since the Commission came into in operation has established the existence of a considerable amount of documentation which has been destroyed or is being concealed by the perpetrators of repressive action. 

The immense and complex machinery built up to carry out clandestine repressive activity required a gigantic infrastructure which was based on orders, directions and communications which inevitably were recorded in writing. Considerable resources were made available, staff allocated and entire buildings constructed or rehabilitated as secret detention centres. Such an enterprise presupposes the existence of essential recorded information.

All the people kidnapped were identified and complete dossiers were made out for each of them, with copies distributed to each different security and intelligence organization.

Where is that vast quantity of written material which must have been in the hands of those who made such a huge and sinister machine work? Intensive investigation has been able to identify only a minimal amount of it. This does, however, form the basis for the reconstruction of part of the jigsaw puzzle of the terror which reigned over the country.

Recently, journalistic sources revealed information from the Ministry of the Interior which indicated that orders had been issued by authorities in the military government to destroy the entire secret documentation relating to repressive activities.

The former de facto President General Reynaldo Benito Bignone himself gave orders, in a confidential Decree No. 2726/83, to destroy documentation relating to those detained at the disposition of the National Executive under the state of siege. The difficulties encountered by the Commission in their task of investigation were put to the President of the Nation, Dr Raúl Alfonsín, in a letter of 3 May 1984 which stated:

There is no doubt that the Governments of the former military Juntas, by establishing absolute control in order to guarantee state monopoly in the exercise of force, received, recorded and filed relevant detailed information. Furthermore, if, as was maintained by the ex-Commanders and high-ranking officers involved, the methods and procedures used in the so-called anti-subversive struggle were based on a formal legal structure, then the existence of a minimum of documentation following from this institutional character of the repression was unavoidable. At the very least, this should include the instructions which preceded decisions of guilt or innocence, the registration of names of detainees or of the dead, and the places of imprisonment or burial.

However, we have so far been able to obtain little of this information. Those who know they are responsible remain silent, and hiding behind the anonymity provided by military secrecy, avoid or delay responding fully to our inquiries, or do not respond at all.

The first task assigned to this Commission - to determine the whereabouts of the disappeared persons - is therefore hindered by an essential lack of documentary information regarding the specifle operational orders of the repression, the identification of those arrested prosecuted, sentenced, freed or killed, and the places where they were held or should have been given a decent burial.

As you will no doubt observe, Mr President, in order to make clear the limits of our accountability to public opinion, the report with which our task concludes should make explicit the sources of information upon which it is based as well as the channels which were closed to us.

The destruction and concealment of the documentation concerning the grave crimes committed by the de facto government placed on the Commission, the judicial powers and the population, the extremely difficult task of reconstructing what occurred using the scanty documentation available. Nevertheless, on the basis of testimonies from those freed, from the relatives of disappeared prisoners, from members of the security forces and the few documents found, we have been able to discover the fundamental information about the illegal action of the repression.




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