The judiciary during the Repression
(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Irregular burial of corpses by the Judicial Mortuary in Buenos Aires - File N° 7188
A deposition was presented to Criminal Investigation Court No.
10 in the Federal Capital on 11 November 1982, concerning incidents relating to irregularities at the judicial morgue, an establishment which came under the direct jurisdiction of the Appeals Chamber of the Criminal Court in the federal capital.
Those bringing the deposition maintained that while the judicial powers insisted, through their rejection of habeas corpus writs, that they knew nothing of the whereabouts of the disappeared, the corpses (some identified and some without this elementary formality) were in the possession of the judicial morgue with the knowledge of the Appeals Chamber.
They claimed that the morgue had carried out autopsies and buried unidentified corpses on instructions from the Armed Forces without judicial authorization. This implied a failure to investigate on the part of the High Court, despite knowledge of evidence of 'violent deaths' and the absence of authorization from the appropriate magistrate.
To back up their assertion, those bringing the deposition provided the following material:
a) Seven reports from the morgue to the Chamber with information about autopsies carried out on orders from the military authorities. The Chamber generally ordered the
cases to be filed away without verification of the cause of death.
b) The dossier sent to the Chamber by Dr Avelino Do Pico, Dean of the Forensic Medical Corps in 1977, acknowledging receipt of six corpses from the Central Military Hospital for storage in the morgue and subsequent delivery to relatives: the uniformed men who brought in the corpses refused to identify themselves despite their obvious military rank (a colonel and a lieutenant) and did not submit the requisite forms either.
The Chamber also officially requested that the hospital of origin inform them which court was dealing with the matter, but this could not be done because 'the corresponding dossier could not be found'; nevertheless Colonel Roberto Roualdes, commander of a sub-zone in the capital, explained to the Chamber that the men had been shot and that they had been sent to the morgue lest the subversive organization to which they belonged tried to steal the bodies and make propaganda out of it.
c) Testimony of Dr José Daverio, Dean of the Forensic Medical Corps in 1978. He maintained that the Chamber was perfectly aware of the autopsies and other activities in the morgue in these particular cases, not only because of the reports but also because he himself asked the Chamber for more doctors to help with the increased workload of autopsies resulting from the corpses sent by the military authorities.
d) Dossiers with writs of habeas corpus which had been refused on the grounds that the appropriate authorities had replied 'not being detained' when all the time the bodies were lying in the morgue.
The cases used to substantiate this deposition refer to the years 1976-8.
After the judge in charge of this matter published the names of ninety-two people (from among 106 investigated cases of bodies delivered to the morgue by order of the military authorities), various members of the families of those named came forward and firmly objected to the designation 'killed in a street battle' on the respective dossiers.
For example, in answer to the assertion that José María Salgado (file No. 3131) was 'killed in a battle with the Combined Forces' on 3 June 1977, his mother maintained the following:
a) The victim was detained at 4.30p.m. on 12 March 1977 in Lanús, Buenos Aires province, near his house when he was crossing the road to buy a newspaper with his pregnant wife and some neighbours.
b) That same night the victim telephoned his parents' house to say he was being held at the Federal Security Headquarters; later on, another person who identified himself as an 'officer in the Federal Police, telephoned demanding that they hand over some documents which were in their house and, although they knew nothing about them, they said they would look for them.
c) The parents asked a friend of theirs, a retired policeman, to come round to the house straight away. When the phone rang again this man answered it as if he were 'the father'; he asked who he was speaking to and the person replied indignantly that he was 'Inspector Serra';
d) Three days later the victim's house was ransacked and all the belongings loaded on to an army lorry, while a group of soldiers stayed in the building for at least a day,
e) Repeated writs of habeas corpus brought the traditional reply 'not detained'.
f) On 3 June (81 days after the kidnapping) the news that the victim 'had been killed in a battle in Buenos Aires' appeared in the press.
g) On 26 June 1977 the parents identified the body of their son in the morgue. His mother gave the following account:
It was horrifying. All that was left of a good-looking, robust (he used to row) boy of twenty-two, an engineering student with a job as well, was a mangled body, brutally tortured, with burns all over his body, his mouth destroyed, without any teeth, his lips and gums burned, his two eyes gouged out, and incredible scars on his wrists indicating the length of time he'd been manacled.
'We found out indirectly that he had been shot on 2 June 1977 by an Inspector Serra at the Headquarters.'
Another example is the disappearance and death of Selva del Carmen Mopardo (file No. 7346) and Alejandra Beatriz Roca (file No. 7322).
Alejandra Beatriz Roca (twenty-one) and her boyfriend Pablo Jorge Morcillo (twenty-four), neither a militant in any political or social group, decided to spend the night of 13 September 1976 at the young man's mother's house in Castelar, Buenos Aires province. Also living in the house were Alfredo Mopardo, his wife María Alicia Morcillo de Mopardo, and their six-month-old baby.
That day Selva Mopardo had been kidnapped from her house and she must almost certainly have given her brother's address to her captors since soldiers identifying themselves as belonging to the 1st Army Corps arrived at the house. They were only looking for Alfredo Mopardo but, finding the other young people there, they took them away too and looted all the belongings in the house.
On 14 November 1976, the police station in Castelar received a deposition from the parents of the Mopardo brother and sister.
The writs of habeas corpus presented on behalf of each of the detained young people, both to the Federal Criminal Court in San Martín, and to the Federal Criminal Court in the city of Buenos Aires, proved fruitless, eliciting only the classic response from administrative and military departments that they had not been detained.
Twenty-three days later, on 6 December 1976, the police informed the Roca and Mopardo families that Alejandra Beatriz and Selva del Carmen had died two days earlier in a 'battle' between the Security Forces and the occupants of a car at the intersection of Avenidas Figueroa Alcorta and Dorrego in Buenos Aires city. There were four bodies perforated front, back and sides by bullets from Itaka shotguns. Inside the car was a .22 rifle and two .22 calibre revolvers.
The body of Alejandra Beatriz Roca was at the wheel of the vehicle. Her family insists that she had never driven a car and did not have the slightest notion of how to drive. The other bodies belonged to Selva del Carmen Mopardo and two completely unknown youths. They carried no identity documents and no money at all. Neither of the girls had bras on, nor had their handbags with them.
The autopsy carried out in the morgue gave no information about the time of death, referring only to the police doctor's version, but it did say that Selva Mopardo's blood could not be analysed because it was in a state of putrefaction. The autopsy carried out on one of the unknown youths showed that his testicles and his meninges were also in a state of putrefaction.
No other technique which might have verified a different cause of death was carried out.
As we have said, none of these deaths - all the results of violent acts - produced any investigation on the part of the judicial authorities, despite the condition of the bodies and their irregular delivery by soldiers.
The deposition presented by lawyers in Buenos Aires calling for an administrative investigation, caused the Supreme Court of Justice to open dossier No. 1306/82; however, the proceedings were halted by a resolution of 7 June 1983 on the grounds that the investigation 'does not reveal irregularities which merit disciplinary action by the Court'.
The magistrates who acceded to the Court with the advent of the Constitutional Government did not agree. Their resolution No. 908/84 has just ordered reopening the case since the arguments on which suspension of the investigation was based 'do not comply with the law; neither is there sufficient basis in the evidence of the proceedings undertaken'.
The reasoning of the newly constituted High Court forms a solid base of argument for the juridical support due to this decision; and, at the same time, it reveals an unmistakable desire to make judicial action reinforce and exhaust any investigations which throw light on the tragic problem of the disappeared.