The judiciary during the Repression
(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Disappearance and death of dr. Guillermo Raúl Díaz Lestrem - File N° 2161
Dr Díaz Lestrem held the position of Secretary to the Federal Criminal Court in Buenos Aires city. He then went on to become Official Defence Counsel in the Criminal Court. While holding the latter post he was detained in the early hours of 30 March 1976 and put at the disposition of the National Executive. He was located in Villa Devoto Prison thanks to the actions of the National Association of Magistrates. He was then transferred to the Sierra Chica prison, Buenos Aires province. He was brutally beaten during the journey, as a result of which his hearing was seriously damaged. Five days after his arrest, a decree was signed relieving him of his position in the judiciary.
He was released and he worked tirelessly at his legal speciality in the practice of the well-known criminal lawyer Dr Ventura Mayoral.
In May 1978, he learned from the porter of his building that some people had been seen acting suspiciously outside. When asked what they were doing, they replied that they 'were looking for Díaz Lestrem'. He was also receiving telephone threats at this time. He decided, therefore, to present himself voluntarily to Criminal Court No. 3 in Buenos Aires, and at the same time file a writ of preventive habeas corpus and ask to be kept in the Palace of justice while the charge was being investigated. He walked out a free man because there was no accusation against him.
Dr Díaz Lestrem disappeared on the night of 20 October 1978. His body was found on 30 November 1978 in the doorway of the Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima in Palermo, Buenos Aires city.
In a recent testimony to this Commission, Nilda Noemí Actis Goretta stated that:
a) She was illegally detained in the Navy Mechanics School for eight months from 19 June 1978.
b) She saw the lawyer Díaz Lestrem there at the end of October of that year.
c) The next day she read in the papers that he had been found dead in Palermo.
d) She also saw the tortures to which he was subjected, (File No. 6321.)
The logical corollary to these events was clear during this time; lack of legal protection for those families who needed to report the tragedies befallen those who had been kidnapped or arrested. The courts went through a strange period in judicial terms; the vast majority of families had to draft their own indictments to present to the courts without the necessary professional help, because of the threat hanging over the lawyers and the fear of what had happened to their colleagues. Never had there been a greater need for legal support, but, paradoxically, professional aid was virtually non-existent.