(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
The Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
An admirer and enthusiastic follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the Brazilian bishop Helder Cámara, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, lecturer in fine arts, secondary schoolteacher of philosophy, history and literature, former university lecturer in architecture, was appointed General Coordinator for Latin America of the Servicio Paz y Justicia in 1974, for which work he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980.
The Servicio Paz y Justicia en América Latina is a lay ecumenical organization whose object is to work for the promotion of basic human rights, based exclusively on non-violent methods. According to Esquivel's own definition, 'We are a Christian movement which has a commitment to the whole continent: to live the Gospel, with a preferential option for the poor, for the most needy.'
On 4 April 1977, he presented himself at the Buenos Aires Police Headquarters to draw his passport in order to travel to Colombia. He was taken off to the Head Office of Federal Security where they kept him in a cell for thirty-two days, without questioning him; he was unaware of the reason for his arrest.
Transferred by police van to San Justo, Buenos Aires province, he was chained in the back seat of a light aircraft and taken to Morón Air Base, then transferred to La Plata Prison, where he was held for fourteen months, with no legal proceedings against him at all. His arrest was prolonged in the form of a conditional release for a further fourteen months.
His period in prison is described by Esquivel himself (Búsqueda magazine, Year 3, Vol. 21, June-July 1983) as follows:
They tortured me for five days in La Plata Prison…they never asked me anything…Once the Deputy Head of La Plata Prison took me into an office and began swearing at me. He said to me, 'Nobody's going to rescue you, not De Nevares, not Aramburu. Not even the Virgin Mary will save you…' In spite of habeas corpus writ and enormous international pressure, they never gave any explanation whatsoever. …There were also other physical and mental pressures… sometimes they would open the door of the cell and punch me, threaten to kill me ... they also used a lot of psychological pressure, as I rated as a maximum security risk. A degrading situation. It was in prison that I received the John XXIII Memorial Prize for Peace, given by Pax Christi International, which was kept completely hidden here. It is an organization directly linked to the Vatican. And while I was in prison, I was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. I was a candidate for three years. ... After the end of my period of conditional release I received invitations from many countries, but they wouldn't give me a passport. Even when I was to go for the presentation of the Nobel Prize I had trouble with my passport ... and never any explanation: the most they told me at the Ministry of the Interior was that it was 'by order of the National Executive'.