Washington College of Law|
Center For Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
RESOLUTION No 15/87
CASE 9635 (ARGENTINA)
June 30, 1987
HAVING SEEN The background of the case, to wit:
In a communication of October 18, 1985, Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López, an Argentine
citizen, former airplane mechanic in the armed forces, currently in the Argentine Federal Prison Unit
located in Bermudez, No 2651, PCL Buenos Aires, presented to the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights a claim alleging the Argentine Government's violation of the provisions of Articles 7
(3); 8 (1) (2 g and h) and 8 (3); 9, 24, 25 (1) and 25 (26) and 1 and 2 of the American Convention
on Human Rights, in view of the the facto and de jure reasons set forth in the denunciation itself, as
The complainant, a political prisoner designated as special by the Federal Prison Service, who
has been illegally and arbitrarily detained since August 1977, a situation that had the semblance of
normality when the military dictatorship scourged the country, which remains unchangeable. The
denial of all appeals filed since the Constitutional Government came to power and the decisions of
the Supreme Court of Justice that confirm this situation (copies of which are attached) constitute new
violations of human rights and amount to noncompliance with the international commitments assumed
by the Argentine State.
The illegal and arbitrary nature of the denial of freedom stems clearly and obviously from the
case filed against him before the standing Court Martial for enlisted personnel and students of the Air
Force, decided upon by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in November 1978 and declared
unappealable by the Supreme Court of Justice on April 23, 1985.
1. The proceedings began on April 29, 1976, when explosive devices were discovered
in tanks of six aircraft. These devices, although they had acted, had not exploded, and therefore the
aircraft were not harmed (fs. 3/4/22/42).
Thus the Government attorney proceeded to take a statement from all personnel who had
acted as Technical Duty Officer and Watch Duty Officer, and all those who had been on duty the
afternoon of the previous day, and the troops who were on detail at the place (fs. 10 and 14, 17, 28
and V. 30, V. 31, 33 and V. 80, 84 and 85, 87, 102 V. 103, 106 and V. 108 and 119 to 120, 123,
125, 131, 133, 137 V. 144, 145 to 148, 150 V. to 151, 155 V. 157 V. 160 V. and 161, 163 165 V.
to 166 and 170 V. They all explained the activities they had been engaged in and none had been any
suspicious movements. Among those making statements was myself, who--as seen from this initial
summary--was never alone during my time on duty.
2. Attached to the summary are sketches of the site showing the location of the aircraft,
the expert's report and photos.
3. The aforementioned statements show that the night before the act was discovered, one
of the hangar doors have been left open, and no one had been in the Technical Duty room, from
which place any irregularity could have been seen, because it had been closed for several days.
Since all the statements were contested and since the explanations offered led to discovery
of the act's perpetrator, the summary proceeding in reference was dismissed. Fifteen months after
the act investigated, in July 1977, López was abducted at the exit of his workplace, according to a
denunciation by the individual accompanying him, and this appears in the record. Also attached is
a photocopy of a preventive writ of habeas corpus before the Federal Court of Cordoba. Then, eight
days after being kept hooded and abducted, the complainant succeeded in fleeing his place of
confinement. His relatives homes were broken into by the security forces who, in every instance,
tried to pinpoint his location. Those who "because of what could happen to them in the near future"
asked why he was sought, were told that it was for desertion.
Attached is a proceeding for desertion, with the explanation that López appeared voluntarily
at the Córdoba Air Force Base to make a summary statement for assault with explosive devices.
Then there was an unsworn statement in Moron, which was not the seat of the Court, nor was it the
place of work, but rather Unit VIII. In that statement, López said he had placed the explosives under
investigation, had met with individuals belonging to the People's Revolutionary Party, and had
delivered cartridges to members of the organization. He had done all this due to his love for a woman
Gladis Aoad, who had told him she belonged to the PRP and had introduced him to a former fiancé,
Osvaldo Oscar Rosonn. When López was confronted with Aoad, the latter denied having engaged
in political conversations with the deponent, although she did say she had been his fiancé and had
introduced him to the person in reference.
It should be said that the aforementioned Rosonn has been on a long list of detained and
missing persons in our country for more than a year. This is not based on any record but rather on
the report of CANADEP, Appendices, list of missing persons, p. 399. The prosecutor called for a
deposition by all of Gladis Aoad's girl friends, her mother, and her work supervisor; and all these said
they were unaware that she might be interested in politics. There are also depositions by the persons
who lived with López, work-mates, persons with whom he went bowling in the area, and the bowling
alley's owner, and all of them concur in stating their unawareness as to whether he might be engaged
in political activities.
The statement by López is not corroborated by any other evidence and it is not consistent with
the circumstances of the case, since there is no agreement as to the events investigated. When the
witnesses who had worked with López the day of the event were called, they maintained their
statement made a year before. In view of the contradictions existing between the confession, the
statements of the witnesses, the date of the act, the impossibility that this could have been done in the
manner confessed, a new statement was taken from him while he was held in strict preventive
His new statements describing how he might have placed the explosive devices were also
Shown the sketch that had been prepared in due course, he said that "he did not agree with
it," and he drew another that lent truth to the explanations given (pp. 345 to 347 vta). The drawing
that had been made the day of the event shows clearly that López could not have placed the explosive
devices without having been seen, due to the distance between the place in which he performed his
duties and the place in which three of the affected aircraft were located, since he would have had to
go to another hangar and all afternoon he had been with other persons up to the time he left the unit.
Based on this evidence, he was convicted of the following crimes: attested illicit association,
theft, attack on aircraft, and desertion from the armed forces.
This conviction was upheld by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
When so notified, the complainant stated expressly for the record that he wished to appeal to
the Supreme Court of Justice. His defense counsel, an untrained member of the military, whom he
had been unable to choose freely, did not file an appeal to that Court.
Clarification: The page numbers of the record showing the facts are not indicated and the
photocopies of such record are not attached because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces again
denied my current defense counsel access to that record by providing false information on its
This situation was pointed out in due course to the President of the country in his capacity
as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Raul Alfonsin.
After the Constitutional Government assumed office, and now having free access to trained
counsel, the following appeals were filed:
a. Remedy of appeal: The Military Code of Justice in force in the country (Law 23.049)
was amended by an act of Congress in February 1984. This amendment provides, in accordance with
the Argentine Constitution, that there can be no civil jurisdictions by such courts only to try
violations. Since this affected the existence of the military establishment only the military codes make
provisions by establishing appeal of the judgments handed down by the Supreme Court of the Armed
Forces (Art. 445 bis C.J.M.), with special reference to the fact that civilians convicted by military
courts file such an appeal within 60 days from the effective date of that law (Art. 13, law 23.049).
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces denied submission of the record. When filed, the
Federal Court of La Plata did not approve the appeal, as it understood that such an appeal is valid
only in the case of persons having future military status. After an exceptional writ alleging arbitrary
action was filed before the Supreme Court, the latter did not consider the case, alleging that it was
not sufficiently well-founded. This decision was announced on April 24, 1985.
The pertinent parts of the appeal in reference are attached (photocopy).
b. Habeas Corpus: Since appeal based on the invalidity of all proceedings has not been
legislated in Argentina, a writ of habeas corpus was filed.
The institution of habeas corpus has already been legally admitted as a valid action against
judgements the courts martial had handed down against civilians. This jurisprudence was adopted
by our legislators who, in order quickly to restore the rule of law in our country, approved law 23042,
which so established it.
This appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court, after a year of processing, which alleged that
it was submitted in untimely fashion, that it was based on inadequate evidence, and that at the
appropriate time, in early 1979, it had not been possible to file a special appeal based on illegal action.
COMPLIANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE CONVENTION TO ADMIT
1. The notification documents indicate that the Supreme Court's resolutions were
announced on April 24, 1985. Moreover, by arbitrarily denying freedom, each moment I continue
to be held means continued violation of Art. 7.3 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
b. Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Upon consideration by the Supreme Court that the
judgement convicting Antonio López has the authority of res judicata and that objection thereto was
filed in an untimely manner, it can be stated that domestic remedies have been exhausted, because this
judgement upholds the decision on the domestic level.
An appeal for review has not been filed, since it would be based on the assumption of a valid
proceeding, which was lacking in the case we denounce.
c. Reservation by the Argentine Government: The arbitrary denial of freedom the
complainant suffers and the Argentine court's decision upholding an irregular proceeding constitute
a violation of human rights after ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights, for which
reason the irregularities of that proceeding and their consequences are not protected by the
reservations made by Argentina.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS DENOUNCED:
Art. 7, paragraph 3. NO ONE SHALL BE SUBJECT TO ARBITRARY ARREST OR
Since denial of his freedom stems from an irregular proceeding by unqualified judges who
acted with prejudice and were not independent, where the defendant did not freely choose his defense
counsel (the latter was untrained, and since they also failed to fulfill their obligations, the proceeding
is absolutely void. Moreover, the judgement is arbitrary because it did not analyze the evidence, the
facts were wrongly depicted, and he was subjected to a law that had been repealed. Further, he was
convicted of crimes whose existence was also unproved. All of this renders the arrest and
imprisonment arbitrary. The verdict of the Argentine court, citing problems of form, avoids analysis
of the matters of substance and is a violation of this standard through the denial of justice, because
the procedural forms have been established to guarantee rights.
Article 8. RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL:
1. EVERY PERSON HAS THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD, WITH DUE PROCESS
GUARANTEES...BY A COMPETENT, INDEPENDENT, AND IMPARTIAL JUDGE OR
Osvaldo López was not tried by a competent court, because the military authority can only
try military violations. The contrary would be to establish courts as a matter of privilege
(which is prohibited by Arts. 16 and 95 of the National Constitution prohibiting the Executive Branch
from assuming judicial duties). Moreover, at the time of the deponent's arrest and trial, the Armed
Forces were operating jointly throughout the country, with their commanding officers having assumed
all public authority, systematically violating human rights.
It should be pointed out that so-called area of Triple M, or Sub area 16, which corresponded
to the districts of Moreno, Merlo and Moron, were under the operational control of the Air Force,
according to newspaper articles and testimony and statements on the trial to the Military Juntas. This
is the area in which López was abducted and in which this case was later pursued. The Palomar Air
Brigade, the Court's seat, and the III Air Brigade, based in Moron, where the complainant made a
statement and later, for security reasons, was imprisoned, are places that have been denounced by
various individuals as clandestine detention centers.
These statements are supported by the unsworn statement that we have invalidated in 8.2.g)
as in violation of Art. 18 of the Constitution and the Convention on Human Rights. It should be
indicated that other events mentioned are not in keeping with the truth of the matter.
Article 9. NO ONE SHALL BE CONVICTED FOR ANY ACT OR OMISSION THAT
DID NOT CONSTITUTE A CRIMINAL OFFENSE, UNDER THE APPLICABLE LAW, AT THE
TIME IT WAS COMMITTED. NOR SHALL A HEAVIER PENALTY BE IMPOSED THAN
THE ONE THAT WAS APPLICABLE AT THE TIME THE CRIMINAL OFFENSE WAS
COMMITTED. IF SUBSEQUENT TO THE COMMISSION OF THE OFFENSE THE LAW
PROVIDES FOR THE IMPOSITION OF A LIGHTER PUNISHMENT, THE GUILTY
PERSONAL SHALL BENEFIT THEREFROM.
This right was violated because, upon conviction, he was subjected to a law that had been
repealed (law 21.272). In the event of there having been a valid trial, and the perpetration of the
crime having been proved, the punishment established for such act (damage to aircraft) in Article 794
of the Military Code of Justice should have been applied: a shorter prison term, a month to two years,
through application of the most favorable law.
It remains to be pointed out that, after his conviction, there were also changes in the prison
terms under Art. 210 bis, attested illegal association, and Art. 222, disclosure of military secrets,
without the penalty having been revised.
Article 24. ALL PERSONS ARE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW. CONSEQUENTLY,
THEY ARE ENTITLED, WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION, TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE
The Argentine court violated this right when it based its denial of justice on his status as a
member of the armed forces at the time he was tried, even denying the possibility of filing a writ of
Article 25. JUDICIAL PROTECTION: EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO A SIMPLE
AND PROMPT RECOURSE, OR ANY OTHER EFFECTIVE RECOURSE, BEFORE A
COMPETENT COURT, OR TRIBUNAL FOR PROTECTION AGAINST ACTS THAT VIOLATE
ONE'S FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS RECOGNIZED BY THE CONSTITUTION OR LAWS OF
THE STATE CONCERNED OR BY THIS CONVENTION, EVEN THOUGH SUCH
VIOLATION MAY HAVE BEEN COMMITTED BY PERSONS ACTING IN THE COURSE OF
THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES.
The outcome of the appeals filed and the time taken to decide them is evidence of such
Article 25.2.B. TO DEVELOP THE POSSIBILITIES OF JUDICIAL REMEDY
The complaint filed also reports the Argentine State's failure to comply with the rights
mentioned in Art. 1 and 2 of the aforementioned Convention.
DUE TO THE FOREGOING, I REQUEST:
1. That this denunciation be admitted and that its admissibility be declared.
2. That the presentation to the Argentine State be examined.
3. If the violations denounced persist, that this denunciation be brought before
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in due course.
- In a note dated October 28, 1985, the Commission asked the Government of the
Argentine Republic for the corresponding information, enclosing the pertinent parts of the claim. A
copy of this note was transmitted to the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Argentine
Republic to the OAS, on that same date.
- The complainant was informed of the steps taken regarding his denunciation in a letter
dated October 28, 1985.
- In a note dated January 24, 1986, the Government of the Argentine Republic
requested, in keeping with Article 34 of the Commission's Regulations, an extension of the deadline
for sending the information requested.
- In a note dated January 27, 1986, the Commission granted the Argentine Government
60 days for submission of the information requested in the aforementioned note dated October 28.
- In a note dated March 26 (SG No. 48 (7-2-17/86), the Argentine Government
answered the Commission's request. This note was supplemented by several appendices under the
corresponding headings it cites. The answer reads as follows:
The Government of the Argentine Republic has the honor to address the Executive Secretary
of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and, with regard to the communication
dated October 28, 1985 on case No. 9635 dealing with the status of the Argentine citizen,
Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López, makes available to you the following reply, without prejudice
to any other explanations the Commission may deem advisable to request:
I. On the date the crimes Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López was accused of occurred
(April 22, 1976), he was a Corporal in the Argentine Air Force.
Taking heed of the facts and the provisions of paragraph 2, Article 108 of the Military Code
of Justice in effect at that time, he was tried by the Military Tribunals in accordance with that
jurisdiction's judicial procedure.
In a proceeding carried out through file "C" No. 248.558 (F.A.A.), he was tried, found guilty
and finally sentenced on November 23, 1978 by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to 24
(twenty-four) years in prison, plus absolute disqualification for the same period, and demotion, as he
was considered the perpetrator of the crimes of "damage to items" assigned to the service of the
Armed Forces" (armed attack against aircraft), "illicit association," "disclosure of national defense
secrets," and "theft," with the aggravating circumstances of falling on munitions, while on duty and
to the detriment of the public treasury and with extenuating circumstances for all of the acts if their
perpetrator had come forward spontaneously before the authorities became aware of the
circumstances, and of the crime of "simple desertion" (Arts. 2 and 5 of law 21.272; 871 paragraphs
1 and 2 and 10, 536, 539, 515 paragraph 8 and 716 paragraph 1, 3; 718 of the Military Code of
Justice, 210 bis, 210 quater, 222, 162, 12, 24, 40 and 41 of the Criminal Code).
Copies are included of all these provisions, which were in effect at the time of the sentence.
This judgement was confirmation, with relation to the punishment with few legal differences,
of the decision of the first instance handed down on September 21, 1978 by the Standing Court
Martial for enlisted personnel, troops and students of the Air Force.
II. After the Constitutional Government headed by Dr. Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín assumed
authority, the complainant files three new appeals, as follows:
a. Appeal to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. This appeal was denied
through a resolution of April 12, 1984. On the basis of Article 13 of law 23.049, the
complainant addressed a complaint to the Federal Court of La Plata, which also rejected it on
August 23, 1984. Finally, the Supreme Court, which is the final instance in our legal system,
declared the special appeal filed to be inadmissible in view of the resolution of April 23, 1985,
endorsing the opinion of the Attorney General, who argued that this appeal was not based on
Article 15 of Law 48, which provides the legal requirements for appealing to the Supreme
Court by way of special appeal.
b. Writ of habeas corpus, based on Article 1 of law 23.042, filed with the Fourth
National Federal Court in Criminal and Correctional Matters.
This appeal was rejected in the first instance and also by the National Federal Court
of Appeals in Criminal and Correctional Matters of the Federal Capital through a resolution
of May 31, 1984.
The special appeal was also rejected by the Supreme Court on April 23, 1985. There
were basically two reasons for the Court's decision: First, the accused status as a member
of the armed forces on the date of the events is not covered by the provisions of Article 1 of
Law 23.042, which deals exclusively with civilians. Secondly, the Court felt that the appeal
based on the possible unconstitutionality of the military jurisdiction and the arbitrary nature
of the Supreme Council's judgement was not filed at the proper time as required by such
c. Finally, on August 21, 1985 and after his sentence had been reduced through
Law 23.070, the complainant filed a complaint with the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces based on that law, asking that his prior time in prison be calculated in a more favorable
manner, thus to obtain a further reduction in sentence. This proceeding has not yet been
It should be pointed out that the original sentence of former Corporal Osvaldo Antonio López
would have had him imprisoned until July 1, 2002; but, by virtue of law 23.070, approved by
the current constitutional government, his term expires on February 26, 1997.
III. CONCLUSIONS OF THE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS THUS FAR
The Argentine Government understands that, in the light of the legal proceedings that
have taken place in the case of former Argentine Air Force Corporal Osvaldo Antonio López,
there is no evidence of noncompliance by the Argentine constitutional justice, and, therefore,
by our government with any of the standards of the American Convention on Human Rights
to which the petitioner makes reference in communication No. 9635.
IV. INADMISSIBILITY OF THE PETITION
As stipulated in Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human
Rights, and in keeping with the Commission's Regulations, the Government of Argentina asks
that the petition filed be declared inadmissible for the following reasons:
General: As is known, immediately after assuming its duties on December 10,
1983, the Argentine Constitutional Government adopted several provisions aimed at full
restoration of the rule of law and unrestricted enjoyment of basic human rights and freedoms.
Among the many measures taken by that government, the following should be
indicated, because they are directly related to the petition in question:
- Law 23.040, which repeals law 22.924 enacted by the previous de facto
government. It will be remembered that the latter law sought to extend amnesty to those
responsible for past human rights violations.
- Law 23.042, which makes it possible to claim personal freedom by filing a writ
of habeas corpus for all civilians sentenced by military courts.
- Law 23.070, which substantially reduced the sentences of prisoners between
March 24, 1976 and December 19, 1983.
- Law 23.077, which expressly repealed repressive standards established by the
previous government and substantially reduced the sentences of others. Copies of the
aforementioned laws are included as an appendix.
Specific: The Argentine Government understands that communication No. 9635 does
not meet the conditions required by Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on
Human Rights for admission, since the petitioner has not exhausted the remedies the
Argentine system provides for under domestic law.
Proof of this is that the petitioner has not yet filed an appeal for review of sentence
provided for in Articles 439, paragraph 4) of the Military Code of Justice and 551, paragraph
4) of the Code of Procedure in Criminal Matters of the federal jurisdiction and regular courts
of the Federal Capital and the national territories, copies of which are included herewith.
This remedy made available by both governing bodies, provides for review of the
sentence in case of a less severe criminal law, under the first assumption, or one that has reduced the sentence or declared that the act is not punishable, under the second assumption.
It should be pointed out that, in addition to the provision set forth in Article 439, paragraph
4 of the Military Code of Justice, the Procedural Code of the federal jurisdiction and regular
courts of the Federal Capital is applied supplementally. Moreover, both standards of
procedure are correlated through the principle of application of the most favorable criminal
law contained in Article 2 of the Penal Code.
The standards upon which the conviction of former Corporal Osvaldo López was
based have undergone substantial changes. Thus, for example, Law 21.272, in addition to
having been partially repealed (see Laws 21.463 and 22.928), was fully repealed on August
9, 1984 by Law 23.077, which in turn repealed the two other laws in reference.
In turn, Articles 162, 210 bis and 222 of the Penal Code were also amended by Law
23.077, calling for lighter punishment.
Moreover, the appeal for review of sentence filed by the petitioner under Law 23.070
is still in process, as already explained above. By virtue of the foregoing, the Argentine
Government requests that communication 9635 be declared inadmissible because it does not
meet the conditions of Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human Rights
and of the Regulations of the Honorable Commission, since the petitioner has not exhausted
the domestic remedies provided for in the Argentine legal system.
- In a letter dated March 31, 1986, the Commission sent the complainant the
information provided by the Argentine Government, with a 45-day deadline for making his
observations or comments.
- In a cablegram dated May 10, 1986, the complainant requested an extension of the
deadline. He was given a 30-day extension, which he was informed of in a letter dated May 14, 1986.
- In a communication dated June 5, 1986, the complainant made the following
I have the pleasure of sending you my observations to the Argentine Government and of
attaching complementary information:
As already indicated, it is true that Osvaldo Antonio López, at the time of the events
of which he was accused (April 22, 1976), was a Corporal in the Argentine Air Force.
The Argentine Government says that, in keeping with the nature of the facts and the
provisions of paragraph 2 of Article 108 of the Military Code of Justice in effect at that time,
he was tried by the military courts in accordance with the judicial proceedings of that
In message 166, in which a bill was submitted to Parliament to amend the Military
Code of Justice, the President of the Nation, accompanied by the Council of Ministers, stated
the following: "The current system of competence of the military court established by
Articles 108 and 109 of the Military Code of Justice, which includes the trial of common
crimes committed at military sites or in the performance of duty constitutes TRUE CIVIL
JURISDICTION CONTRARY TO ART. 16 OF THE CONSTITUTION. In the future,
military jurisdiction must be restricted to the trial of military crimes, that is, those not included
in the Penal Code, and disciplinary infractions." He adds later that "to be judged for the
commission of common crimes by an administrative court consisting of peers involves both
a privilege and a lack of protection, both constitutionally inadmissible, and, therefore, it is
necessary to add an appeal that can be supported by both the prosecutor and the defendant.
This makes it "the last analysis the judges, common to all Argentines, who judge these events
in the last instance".
In addition to the unconstitutional nature of Articles 108 and 109 of the Military Code
of Justice in reference, the aforementioned legislation contains several provisions that are
seriously detrimental to the right of defense--legally declared several times--among which the
following should be indicated:
a) Article 197, which establishes that the defense counsel must always be an
active or retired official;
b) Article 98, which defines defense as an act of service;
c) Article 366, which provides that in no case shall it be permitted to advance in
favor of the defendant any consideration detrimental to the respect due to a superior or to
lodge against them any accusation related to facts that are not related to the case; nor shall
it be allowed to criticize or unfavorably assess the activities or political or administrative acts
of the government;
d) Article 367, which, in accordance with Article 664, punishes a defense counsel
who lacks due respect for a superior or who makes assessments of government acts, with
punishment of up to four years in prison or detention;
e) Article 364, which says that no brief other than those expressly allowed shall
f) Article 264, which establishes that no one may attend the presentation of
g) Article 237, which authorizes that an individual giving unsworn testimony may
be urged to tell the truth, etc.
But not even with these restrictions was López tried in accordance with the legal
procedure of that jurisdiction, as the Argentine Government says, because the following
provisions of the Military Code of Justice were also violated: Article 2, which provides that
military courts may not apply punishments other than those established under law; Article
226, which provides that the government attorney shall take steps to confirm the crime and
its circumstances even if the defendant confesses from the very beginning to being the
perpetrator; Article 240, which provides that he may not use coercion or threats or promises
of any kind against the witness; Article 252, which indicates that, after giving an unsworn
statement, he will be allowed to appoint a defense counsel, all subsequent procedures being
void if such appointment is hindered;
Article 290), which provides that two or more experts shall be appointed to assess the
Article 300), which indicates the contents of the expert report; Art. 575), which says
that no tribunal or military authority may increase or decrease punishment beyond the
maximum or minimum,...nor increase it by replacing it with others;
Article 576, which provides that no offense may be suppressed with punishment nor
established by the law before being committed; and if the criminal law at the time of the
offense and subsequent offenses is different, the one most favorable to the accused shall be
applied, and if the punishment has already been imposed by an executory judgement, it will
be replaced by the least severe one, etc.
These irregularities, together with those that were denounced in the initial brief, were
the reasons for drafting a denunciation against those who took part in his trial, so that his trial
would be ordered for breach of duty in accordance with the standards of Arts. 832, 833 and
179 of the Military Code of Justice (cf. document, a copy of which we attach).
The judgement handed down against members of the First Military Junta for violation
of basic human rights clearly held that retired Brigadier General Orlando Ramón Agosti, as
Commander and Chief of the Air Force, gave his subordinates orders "that called for
abductions, torture, the physical elimination of a vast number of individuals vaguely
categorized as 'subversive,' and that such orders involved acceptance of the idea that in their
area of operations other crimes were to be committed, such as robbery, abortions, rape and
suppression of the civil status of minors"; and it is also confirmed that he gave the order for
operations--Provincia--for the participation of Air Force personnel in the struggle against
subversion. This operational order was the outcome of A DELEGATION TO THE ARMY
TO ACT IN THE DISTRICTS OF MORON, MERLO, MORENO (Buenos Aires Province)
FOR THE AIR FORCE, which had the main responsibility throughout the Republic for how
to implement and carry out the struggle against subversion (Judgement of the Court of
Appeals on Federal Criminal and Correctional Matters of the Federal Capital), December 9,
Article 468 of the Military Code of Justice provides that execution of final judgements
by military tribunals must be ordered by the President in all instances in which the judgement
imposes the death penalty or affects senior personnel, and by the corresponding commanders
in chief in other instances.
Dr. Raul Zaffaroni holds that the order to carry out the military judgement is a legal
control and that official approval by the President or the branch commander is not of
discretional compliance but rather a legal control, a very restricted assessment of the principle
of suitability limited to exceptional cases and transitory situations, only for the time necessary.
The competent authority may in no case change the judgement for a military crime nor
arbitrarily delay the official approval, thus safeguarding the constitutional authority of the
Executive Branch to pardon or commute punishment (Arts. 469, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the
Military Code of Justice) (Zaffaroni-Cavallero, Derecho Penal Militar, Editorial Aries, 1980,
For the purposes of this case, the official approval was given by Brigadier Agosti
through resolution 203 of May 10, 1979 (p. 503). It is obvious that the legal control applied
by Brigadier General Agosti's official approval must be totally disqualified, it being left to the
President of the Nation to exercise certain authority provided for in Article 469 of the Military
Code of Justice.
The report on the human rights situation in Argentina by the IACHR
(OEA/Ser.L/V/II.49 doc. 2011 of April 1980), on pages 223 and 224, analyzes the action
taken by the military tribunals beginning March 24, 1976, which is fully applicable to the case.
In this regard, it points out that "the alleged criminals were not allowed to choose
their own defense attorneys but were assigned official military defenders who are not licensed
lawyers. These circumstances... constituted serious infringements of the right to defense
inherent in due process." It mentions Art. 95, which provides that in no case may the
President exercise judicial functions..." With regard to the right to an impartial trial, it points
out that "the Military Courts composed of officers involved in the repression of the same
crimes they are judging, do not offer sufficient guarantees of impartiality. This is aggravated
by the fact that in a military court, the defense is in the hands of a military officer, meaning
that the defense is taken over by a person who is also part of, and has strong disciplinary ties
to, the same force responsible for investigating and repressing the acts with which the
accused is charged. With regard to this parody of a trial to which López was submitted, and
against which all remedies allowed under domestic law have been exhausted, the Argentine
Government reports that "he was tried in accordance with the judicial proceedings of this
The Argentine Government recognizes that, after the Constitutional Government took
office, López filed several appeals. He endeavored to be included too, in the legal order that
began to be restored in our country. Let us see:
a) Law 23.049 was approved. He filed appeals based on Art. 13 against the
judgement handed to him by the military tribunals. This is the appeal referred in the
afore-mentioned presidential message No. 166. This appeal was denied by both the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces and by the Federal Court of Appeals of La Plata. The Supreme
Court of Justice which, as the Argentine Government well points out, is the final instance of
our judicial system, declared the special filing to be inadmissible, arguing that it was not based
on Art. 15 of Law 48. In view of the denial of freedom López was suffering due to the unfair
trial to which he had been submitted, this decision was included among those which in similar
instances that high court had disqualified because "the pronouncements that hide the objective
truth due to an obvious ritual excess injure the requirement that justice be suitably served as
guaranteed by Art. 18 of the National Constitution," because trial formalities have been
established to guarantee the basic right, never to legitimize lack of proper defense, never to
confirm the arbitrary denial of freedom.
b) An appeal of habeas corpus was filed with the Fourth National Federal Court
for Criminal and Correctional Matters. This appeal, which, like the previous one, would have
assisted review of the arbitrary nature of the Supreme Council's judgement, was rejected in
the first instance. The resolution was confirmed by the Federal Court on May 31, 1984, and
the appeal was also rejected by the Supreme Court of Justice on April 23, 1985. There were
basically two grounds for the decision:
1) The military status of the accused on the date of the events which would not
include him under the provisions of Law 23.042 which refers exclusively to civilians. This
restrictive interpretation of habeas corpus denies the purpose of that procedure: the
immediate release of anyone who may be illegally denied his freedom.
2) The opinion--with excessively strict formality--that the possible
unconstitutionality of the military jurisdiction and the arbitrary nature of the judgement should
have been expressed at the appropriate time, the impossibility of timely filing not having been
shown. The Supreme Court omits the records in the file, since the record of notification of
the judgement (fs. 448) includes the request made by López to appeal the decision, which was
not done because of his lack of proper defense without access to a trained civilian lawyer and
because his military "defense" counsel was not an attorney and/or did not perform his duties.
Upon the rejection of both appeals by the National Supreme Court, the domestic
appeals that might have enabled reexamination of the trial were exhausted.
c) On the basis of Law 23.070, the Argentine Government reported that the
sentence handed down by the Supreme Court of the Armed Forces for Osvaldo López had
been reduced from July 1, 2002 to February 26, 1997. This reduction was figured at three
days for every two days of prison served. Instead of this, since this was a prisoner who had
been placed in "maximum security," it should have been computed at two for one, which
would have taken his sentence to 1995 under the provisions of that law. In view of the
violation of current legislation, on August 21, 1985, Osvaldo López filed an appeal to the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces asking that his imprisonment be calculated in
accordance with the law. This is being processed and since it deals with a consequence of the
proceeding, it does not affect the petition filed by Osvaldo López with the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights.
III. ADMISSIBILITY OF THE PETITION:
None of the Argentine Government's opinions are adequate for declaring the petition
to be inadmissible. they are:
General: The fact that the Argentine Government has enacted a series of legal
standards aimed at restoring the rule of law and the unrestricted enjoyment of human rights
does not mean that they apply to the situation of López.
a) Law 23.040 repeals Law 22.924 enacted by the de facto government as a
consequence of popular demand and the political prisoners themselves, which include Osvaldo
López, because this law sought to extend amnesty to those responsible for the genocide that
occurred in the country.
b) Law 23.042 was expressly declared by the National Supreme Court of Justice
as not applicable to the case of Osvaldo López.
c) Law 23.070 reducing the sentence does not permit reexamination of the
d) Law 23.007, which repealed Law 21.272 and amended the penalties in Articles
162, 210 bis and 222, allows for filing an appeal for review as provided for in Article 439 of
the Military Code of Justice. It reads as follows: "This remedy is provided against final
judgements by the Military Tribunals and its effect is to suspend execution or to interrupt
fulfillment thereof; and it is appropriate, in the proper instances, to apply the most favorable
penal law retroactively." Article 551 of the Code of Penal Procedures is in agreement with
Specific: By virtue of the latter standard, the only one of those cited by the Argentine
Government that applies to the case of Osvaldo Antonio López, it is sought to have the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declare the petition inadmissible because the
petitioner would not have exhausted all domestic remedies under the Argentine legal system.
This opinion should be rejected, and the petition of Osvaldo López should be admitted
because the appeal for review to which the Argentine Government refers deals exclusively
with the consequences of the proceeding in terms of the reduction of penalties or elimination
of criminal figures, but it does not deal with the invalidity of the process itself through which
the sentence was reached.
It should be pointed out that at the sessions convoked by the Buenos Aires Bar
Association as a contribution to the parliamentary debate on the "current legal status of
political prisoners" the opinion as expressed on this topic was as follows:
"4) Standing unchanged as of this date is the appeal for review of judgements handed down
under the authority of previous adjudication, even though they have been handed down by the
National Supreme Court of Justice for the assumptions governed by Article 551 of the Code
of Penal Procedures applicable to the federal jurisdiction. 5) None of the assumptions of
Article 551 of the afore-mentioned Code provides for the possibility of filing an appeal for
review in cases of violation or nonobservance of the legal guarantees established in Article
8 of Law 23.054. 6) The individual study of each case of the aforementioned political
prisoners thus highlights the violation of all the cases and, to different degrees of seriousness,
that of each and every legal guarantee recognized in Article 8 of the American Convention
on Human Rights, or Pact of San José, Costa Rica, and this situation has been aggravated
thus far by the circumstance indicated in item 5."
The Argentine Government's argument that the petition should be rejected because an appeal
for review under Law 23.070 on how to calculate the sentence is still pending is not worthy
of serious consideration. A state cannot claim confusion between due process, a decision as
to guilt or innocence, and how to figure a sentence depriving freedom.
As inferred by the Argentine Government's answer, the judicial branch has
systematically refused to study the procedure whereby López is imprisoned, always
raising up problems of form. Thus it confirms the illegal denial of freedom to which
López is subjected, giving the authority of prior adjudication to a spurious proceeding
which ended with an arbitrary decision, in this instance deviating from its own
jurisprudence, which establishes that "no judicial proceeding shall be maintained if its
inferences wound the community's legal and moral conscience set forth in the
Constitution's standards and principles" (decisions T. 248 - 291).
- Faced with the precise violations of the Pact of San José, Costa Rica, which were
denounced, the Argentine Government is silent. This in itself must be understood as
an implicit acceptance of each and every one of the irregularities, in accordance with
the principle of law that establishes the consequences of silence when there is a legal
obligation to answer.
- The Government claims that the remedies under domestic jurisdiction are exhausted
as though it were unaware of the differences between the proceeding and its
It conspicuously points to the existence of an appeal to reduce the sentence, but it
does not apply this officially in accordance with the procedures established in articles 439 and
576 of the Military Code of Justice and 552 of the Code of Penal Procedures.
NEW FACTS: By way of supplementary information, you are informed of the
following events that have occurred since the filing of this denunciation:
López continues to be denied his freedom.
- The communication the distinguished Commission sent Osvaldo López in December
1985 never reached his attorneys because it was taken by the prison personnel.
- For six months the defense lacked access to the file prepared against López (cf.
- Faced with the denunciation made against those who judged López and against the
person who had been appointed as his defense counsel at the time, it was decided that
the military defense counsel was not an attorney and therefore could not file appeals
to the Supreme Court, and that consequently they could not be approved.
- With regard to the denunciation made against those who were falsely informing his
current defense counsel of the file's whereabouts, thus denying access thereto, it was
decided that this was due to excusable errors.
- The petition filed by López asking that his sentence be computed in accordance with
the law, notwithstanding the time that had elapsed, has not yet been decided upon.
PETITION: In view of all the foregoing, I ask the IACHR:
- That it deem the observations called for by the Argentine Government's
answer as having been made.
- That prior to deciding upon it, an advisory opinion be requested of the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning the following matter: whether the appeal
for review provided for in Art. 439, paragraph 4) of the Military Code of Justice against the
final judgements of the Military Tribunals, whose effect is to suspend execution or to interrupt
its compliance, deals exclusively with the consequences of the proceeding and therefore
precludes examination of the proceeding itself, as held by the petitioner, or whether, to the
contrary, it constitutes the exception of inadmissibility of the petition sought by the Argentine
- That the Argentine Government be requested to send a certified copy of the
judgement handed down by the National Federal Court of Appeals in Criminal and
Correctional Matters of December 9, 1985, in the case against Jorge Rafael Videla and others,
and the evidence existing against Brigadier General Agosti and/or the Argentine Air Force.
- That the Argentine Government be asked to submit certified copies of the
minutes for the second meeting of the National Chamber of Deputies held on 16/12/83.
- That the Argentine Government be asked to submit certified photocopies of
cases pursued by the Standing Court Martial for enlisted personnel, troops and students,
which as of 18 December, 1985, consisted of 547 pages in three volumes (files "L" 1362/78
"C" and files 1361/78 "C" 12C of 79 pages and Letter "L" 1361/78 Cd 8 "c" with 19 pages),
and in particular photocopies of decisions 8593 and 8636 of the Office of the Attorney
General of the Armed Forces, of November 5, 1985 and December 26, 1985 and Number
15.761 of the Office of the Judge Advocate of the Armed Forces, of March 6, 1986, which
were removed by resolution of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
- That the Argentine Government be requested to submit certified photocopies
of the following files: López, Osvaldo Antonio/habeas corpus, case 4541, filed with the
Fourth National Federal Court of the First Instance in Criminal and Correctional Matters,
Secretariat No. 11, Moreno on complaint in file of Osvaldo López on appeal of case No. 4596
filed with the Federal Court of La Plata.
- That the Commission employ its good offices with the Argentine Government
so that the violations denounced will cease and, in the event they continue, that it employ its
good offices with the Inter-American Court of Justice.
- Since the communication that had been sent me reached my attorneys very
late, that I be considered to be legally domiciled in their office at Calle Tacuarí 119 4 Piso "P"
(1071) Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- That Dr. Juan Méndez, domiciled at 739 8th Street, S.E., Washington, D.C.
USA 20003, is expressly authorized to consult the file and to request copies thereof.
In a note dated June 17, 1986, the Commission transmitted the complainant's
observations to the Government of the Argentine Republic, to present within 30 days any information
or answer it might deem appropriate. A copy of this communication was conveyed to the
Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the OAS on that same day. Also, in a letter dated June
17, 1986, the complainant was informed of the steps taken concerning his observations.
In a note dated July 17, 1986 (SG 157 (7.2.17), the Argentine Government requested
an extension of the deadline set for sending its remarks and information. That note explains the
reason for the request, indicating that "it is due to the fact that remedies under domestic jurisdiction
described in my note DG 48 (7.2.17)/86, whose substantiation has been requested recently by the
petitioner's defense attorneys, are in process."
In a note dated July 25, 1986, the Commission informed the Argentine Government
of a thirty-day extension.
In a note dated September 11, 1986, (SG 210 - 7.2.17), the Argentine Government
provided the following additional information:
Without prejudice to the additional explanations the Commission may deem advisable
to request, I am pleased to make the following information available to you:
I. As stated in item B. (Specific) of paragraph IV (Inadmissibility of the petition),
in the note dated March 26, 1986 concerning the case of Mr. Osvaldo A. López, the
Argentine Government reconfirms its opinion that such communication does not meet the
requirements of Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Proof of this is as follows:
a) At the present time there is before the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
an appeal for review filed by the petitioner on August 8, 1986, as provided for in Article 439,
paragraph 4) of the Military Code of Justice, in accordance with Article 551, paragraph 4) of
the Code of Procedures in Criminal Matters.
b) In view of presentation of the afore-mentioned appeal for review and pursuant
to Article 441 of the Military Code of Justice, the Minister of Defense requested an opinion
from the Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces, who decided as follows on August
Bearing in mind that Law 21272 has been repealed by Article 1 of Law 23077, which
prima facie would call for application of Article 827 of the Military Code of Justice (L. A6),
which establishes a lighter sentence, I believe that, in accordance with the provisions of
Article 439, paragraph 4) of the latter legal body, it would be appropriate to consider the
appeal in reference.
c) Subsequently, the Minister of Defense referred the files in reference to the
Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces with the following provision:
In accordance with the opinion handed down by the Judge Advocate General of the
Armed Forces, I refer these records related to the appeal for review filed by former Air Force
Corporal Osvaldo Antonio López concerning the judgement of the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces on November 23, 1978, requesting that it be processed on a preferential basis.
d) It must be stressed that the decision of the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces may also be appealed before the competent Federal Court and, when appropriate,
before the National Supreme Court. Finally, it is pointed out that the proceedings under way
allow the assumption that this situation will be cleared up shortly.
II. The Argentine Government understands and so explains in Section I that the
communication on case No. 9635 concerning the status of Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López must
be declared inadmissible because it does not meet the requirements of Article 46, paragraph
a) of the American Convention on Human Rights and those of the Commission's Regulations.
For the preceding reasons, the Argentine Government does not go into an analysis of
other aspects of the communication related to the case of Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López, as it
stated already in Item III of the reply of March 26, 1986.
Moreover, the complainant, in a communication dated August 21, 1986, reported on the
progress of the new developments related to his case before the civilian as well as military legal
authorities. These reports are as follows:
Since it can be inferred from the Argentine Government's reply to the distinguished
Commission that the remedy of review under the most favorable penal law could be a suitable
mechanism for recovering my freedom, I filed such an appeal before the Federal Court of La
Plata, without thereby waiving my right to review of the entire proceeding. As I had stated
in my previous presentations, the mechanisms under domestic jurisdiction for this latter right
have been exhausted.
According to a certified judgement, a copy of which I attach, the Federal Court of La
Plata rejected this presentation, declaring itself incompetent. For this purpose, it claims that
the appeal for review under the most favorable law must be filed before the Supreme Council
of the Armed Forces.
Therefore the Federal Court declined its jurisdiction in favor of an administrative
tribunal, which, as such, is subordinate to the Executive Branch. This resolution is in conflict
with the provisions of the National Constitution that establish the representative republican
form of government, prohibiting the Executive Branch from usurping judicial functions (Arts.
C. N.). It is at the same time a new violation of the provisions of Art. 8. 1) of the American
Convention on Human Rights.
This resolution is one further demonstration that the judges not only avoid taking up
review of the erroneous proceedings conducted when a genocidal military junta usurped
power in our country but that, moreover, in the case of political prisoners, such as my case,
they refuse to apply current legislation that establishes the remedy of review of penalties
under the most favorable law or different ways to compute penalties.
Included with this communication was a copy of the decision denying the appeal for review
by the Federal Court of La Plata filed by the complainant under the terms of Art. 551, paragraph 4
of the Code of Military Procedures (C.P.M.) against the judgement of the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces dated November 23, 1978, which sentenced Mr. Osvaldo Antonio López to 24 years
in prison with the additional penalties of absolute disqualification for the same length of time and
In a note dated September 16, the Commission transmitted this information to the
complainant, requesting his observations.
In a communication dated October 7, 1986, the complainant set forth further
observations to the Argentine Government's comments. The text reads as follows:
With reference to your letter of September 16, last, in which you informed us of the contents
of the note dated September 11, 1986 from the Argentine Government, we wish to convey
to you the following observations:
The contents of the appeals for review of the consequences of the spurious trial to
which López has been submitted reaffirm the opinion that domestic channels for obtaining
annulment of the decision have been exhausted. The answer itself from the Argentine
Government shows that the civilian tribunals have refused to review the case as a whole,
citing reasons of form.
- The appeal filed before the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for review
of the sentence in accordance with Art. 439 of the Military Code of Justice is subsequent to
the appeal filed for the same purpose before the Federal Court of La Plata, which the latter
- The opinion handed down by the Judge Advocate General means that this
requirement only allows review of the sentence through application of a more favorable law.
In the contrary sense, it does not allow review of the merits on which the sentence is based.
Despite this, if the Judge Advocate's opinion were heeded, the sentence could be reduced
from 24 years to 15 years, and if the system of computing two days for each day spent in
prison during the military dictatorship were applied, López would recover his freedom
- We include herewith a photocopy of the opinion of the Prosecutor of the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which asks that the 24-year sentence be reduced to
22 years. It also follows from this opinion that it is still believed that "it is appropriate to
take, subject to the facts declared proven, a new approach in keeping with current
legislation." It is obvious, as we held, that "the facts declared proven" are not going to be
reviewed, and this is true to the extent that the Prosecutor is not at all engaged in the
questioning the grounds for that declaration.
- The rebuttal of the Judge Advocate General and the Prosecutor of the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appears in a document presented by Captain (Army
Retired) José Luis D'Andrea Mohr, Military Counsel, with the cooperation of Drs. Moreno
and Carsen, on 30/9/86, a photocopy of which we include and ask to be included as part of
- Although the decision is subject to review, this is to be done by the Federal
Court of La Plata, whose slight willingness to intervene has already been made clear to your
Commission. If it were necessary to appeal to the National Supreme Court of Justice, we
should now merely remark that the case of another person held for committing political
crimes, Héctor Gerónimo López, for more than a year and a half has been pending decision.
- We include for the Commission's study the article published in "El Periodista"
on this case.
- We repeat, in view of the positions taken by both parties, our request for an
advisory opinion by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as to whether the appeal
pending for review of the sentence fulfills the requirement for admissibility in Art. 46,
paragraph a) of the American Convention on Human Rights and concordant provisions of that
Included with the communication in reference was a copy of the appeal for review filed by the
complainant with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in view of the refusal of the Federal
Court of La Plata, for substantive reasons, to admit this appeal. This new appeal for review also
requested the designation of a military co-defense counsel, and the prisoner's immediate release was
In a note dated March 19, 1987 (Vs.11 (7.2.17), the Government of the Argentine
Republic supplied the following information concerning the case: that on March 5, 1987, the Federal
Court of La Plata had allowed a special appeal to the National Supreme Court of Justice.
The Commission considered Case 9635 at its 69th session on the basis of the
Argentine Government's information mentioned above and decided to postpone its decision thereon
until a clarification had been obtained from that Government concerning the note of March 19 on the
scope of the appeal for review, because there was a doubt as to whether that appeal would enable the
Supreme Court of Justice to review Mr. López' trial (with regard to the substance of the matter)
whereby he was sentenced, or whether the issue would be an appeal for review of the sentence
through application of the most favorable law.
At its 69th session (March 1987), the Commission decided to address a note to the
Argentine Government asking it for clarification of the matters in reference.
In keeping with that decision, the Commission addressed a note to the Government
of the Argentine Republic on March 31, 1987.
In a note dated April 30, 1987 (SG No. 137 (7.2.17)/87), the Argentine Government
enclosed a copy of the judicial order issued in the López case whereby the "special appeals filed" by
the defense were allowed. Included with this judicial order was a copy of the order handed down by
the Appellate Court of La Plata, which provides as follows: i) to declare the appeal filed by the party
inadmissible and ii) to confirm the declaration of incompetence to deal with rectification of the
sentence's computation as requested by the complainant.
2. In a communication of May 4, 1987, the complainant again addressed the IACHR on
occasion of the aforementioned appeal for review and stated the following:
Upon appeal by my defense counsel, it is now up to the National Supreme Court of
Justice, which has had the case before it for two months, to decide. I am afraid that once
again my right to freedom will be postponed. I continue in the same situation that I was in
two years ago when I turned to the IACHR. On the two previous occasions, in which my
proceeding reached the National Supreme Court of Justice, that Court refused to review it
for various reasons. Currently, in view of the latest events in the country, I have the
well-founded fear that the Court will postpone sine die decision on my case, or that, claiming
the same reasons as the Federal Court of La Plata, it will refuse to intervene in the appeal
before it for consideration or, at best, it will reduce my sentence as requested by the
Prosecutor and order my immediate release without going into review of the proceeding itself,
leaving as proven events that never occurred and that served to uphold my unjust sentence.
With regard to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I formally and
expressly petition that it make itself available to the parties in order to reach a friendly
solution based on respect for the human rights established in the Pact of San José, specifically:
the right to personal liberty (Art. 7); the right to a fair trial (Art. 8); the right to judicial
protection (Art. 25) which, using the terms of this latter provision, allows me through a
simple, prompt and effective recourse to protect my basic right to immediate freedom and to
a fair trial, which rights are recognized by the National Constitution, the law and the
American Convention and which are being violated day by day as long as I am not released
and as long as the trial that led to my unjust sentence is not reviewed.
- That in the current stage of steps taken in the case before the Commission, both the
petitioner and the Government of the Argentine Republic have had ample opportunity to express their
views in order for the Commission to reach a decision on the complaint's admissibility, bearing in
mind that the complainant has been deprived of his freedom for nine (9) years.
- That, prima facie, the basic matter of importance now is to determine whether the
remedies under domestic jurisdiction of the Argentine Republic have been exhausted, in order to
decide on the admissibility of the denunciation, since the impediment provided for in Article 46,
paragraph 1, a) of the American Convention on Human Rights, and in Article 37, paragraph 1 of the
Commission's Regulations has been overcome.
- That, actually, the arguments and terms of reference presented to the Commission by
the complainant and the individuals and entities contributing to the denunciations, as well as those
presented by the Argentine Government, have focused on the problem of the exhaustion of domestic
- That, as the terms of reference presented indicated, the complainant has filed, although
with unfavorable results, the remedies of appeal, complaint, special appeal for illegal action, habeas
corpus and special appeal to the National Supreme Court of Justice, whereby the domestic measures
that could be available to the complainant would have been exhausted.
- That the Argentine Government disagrees, pointing out that in this case there has still
been no filing of the "Appeal for Review of the penalty provided for in Articles 439, Paragraph 4, of
the Military Code of Justice and 55l, Paragraph 4, of the Code of Procedures in Penal Matters for the
Federal Jurisdiction and the Ordinary Tribunals of the Federal Capital and of the National Territories"
(Note SG-48, cit. supra, p.4), for which reason it believes that the complaint is inadmissible because
it does not meet the "conditions required by Article 46, paragraph a) of the American Convention on
Human Rights" (Note SG-48, p.5, cit.)
- That with regard to presentation of the appeal for review the Argentine Government
indicates, the complainant explains in his petition why such appeal would not apply, stating the
b. Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Upon consideration by the Supreme Court
of Justice that the judgement convicting Antonio López has the authority of prior adjudication
and that objection thereto was filed in untimely manner, domestic remedies have been
exhausted, because this judgement firms up the decision from the domestic standpoint of the
proceeding in which the verdict was handed down.
An appeal for review, has not been filed, since it would be based on the assumption
of a valid proceeding, which was lacking in the case we denounce.
- The appeal for review to which the Argentine Government refers would deal
"exclusively with the consequences of the proceeding in terms of the reduction of penalties or
elimination of criminal figures, but it does not deal with the invalidity of the process in itself through
which the sentence is reached," as the complainant indicates in his observations (cit. supra, p.6).
- That, despite the foregoing, the complainant filed with the Federal Court of La Plata
an appeal for review of the sentence, without thereby waiving his right to review of the entire
proceeding, and the Federal Court of that city, in Resolution l0 of July l986 (File 306), rejected the
appeal, declaring itself incompetent based on the fact that the appeal for review through the most
favorable law "must be filed with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces," whereby, the issue
would be a denial of jurisdiction in favor of an administrative tribunal which, as such, is subordinate
to the Executive Branch.
- That, in this regard, it is obvious to point out the statement by the Buenos Aires Bar
Association (September l985) on the "Current Juridical Status of Political Prisoners," to the effect
4. Standing unchanged as of this date is the appeal for review of judgements
handed down under the authority of former adjudication, even though they have been handed
down by the National Supreme Court of Justice for the assumptions governed by Article 551
of the Code of Penal Procedures applicable to the Federal Jurisdiction.
- That, moreover, due to the context of the denunciation and observations presented
by the complainant, assumed violations of the right to judicial guarantees which are the bases of due
process are inferred. Among such assumed violations, the following are indicated:
- The same events had been the subject of investigation by the competent military
authorities themselves, and the persons involved, among them Mr. Osvaldo López, had been declared
- The accused was sentenced without sufficient evidence and only on the basis of a
"confession" made under irregular conditions and without the presence of a defense attorney, which
happened more than 15 months after the investigation mentioned in item a), after Mr. López had been
abducted in July 1977 and detained in a non prison center, as was Unit VIII (Morón), a place
denounced as a clandestine detention center;
- The judgement did not analyze the evidence. It applied a law that had been repealed
(Law 21.272), and finally, the accused was given a heavier sentence for acts that were not proven
beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The accused did not have the appropriate assistance by trained counsel, and when he
was notified of the judgement and put expressly on the record that he would appeal that judgement
to the National Supreme Court of Justice, the untrained official attorney did not file the
afore-mentioned appeal in a timely manner or at any other time, leaving the individual convicted
without proper defense.
- That the proceeding under which Mr. Osvaldo López was sentenced was conducted
with complete lack of constitutional guarantees, as is tacitly recognized by the Government of the
Argentine Republic itself, in Note SG-48, cit. p.3, upon indicating that "as is known, immediately
after assuming its duties on December 10, 1983, the Argentine Constitutional Government adopted
several provisions aimed at full restoration of the rule of law and unrestricted enjoyment of basic
human rights and freedoms."
- That as part of the work of institutional renewal by the current Government of the
Argentine Republic, measures have been proposed that are directly involved with the military
legislation under which the trial of Mr. Osvaldo López was carried out. In this sense, it is necessary
to emphasize what appears in the case record;
Law 23.040, which repeals Law 22.924 enacted by the previous de facto
Government. It is brought to mind that the latter law sought to give amnesty to those
responsible for the human rights violations that had occurred in the past.
- Law 23.042, which establishes the possibility of claiming personal freedom by
filing a writ of habeas corpus for all civilians sentenced by military tribunals.
- Law 23.070, which substantially reduced the sentences of the prisoners
between March 24, 1976 and December 10, 1983.
- Law 23.977, which expressly repealed repressive standards established by the
previous Government and substantially reduced the sentences of others. Included as an
appendix are copies of the afore-mentioned laws.
- That the Federal Court of La Plata, upon allowing the complainant a special appeal
before the National Supreme Court of Justice, expressed to the IACHR the doubt as to whether such
appeal would enable the Court to review the proceeding as regards the substance of the matter or
whether the issue would be only an appeal to review the sentence, applying a more favorable law but
upholding the judgement of the military tribunals whereby Mr. Osvaldo A. López was sentenced to
a longer deprivation of freedom.
- That, in the Commission's opinion, the Argentine Government's answer dated April
30, 1987, does not explain the scope of the appeal pending before the Supreme Court, as the
Commission asked that Government to do in the note dated March 31, 1987.
- That if the appeal were to review only the sentence, it would not result in redressing
the juridical and moral injury stemming from a proceeding presumedly invalidated by serious
irregularities which, for that reason, should be reopened so that the convicted individual would have
a procedural opportunity to show his innocence or, otherwise, for his guilt to be established beyond
- That more than a reasonable period has elapsed for the domestic remedies the
Argentine Republic established for the defense of human rights to have been exhausted and, in this
instance, for the rescission of decisions or judgements involving violation of the legal guarantees
provided for under the Constitution and protected by the American Convention (Art. 8) together with
the right to personal liberty (Art. 7) and, moreover, every individual's right to a "simple and prompt
trial, or any other effective recourse, before a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts
that violate one's fundamental rights recognized by the Constitution or laws of the state concerned
or by this Convention, even though such violation may have been committed by persons acting in the
course of their official duties."
- That, therefore, the provisions of Article 46, paragraph 2.c) of the American
Convention on Human Rights and Article 37, paragraph 2.c) of the Commission's Regulations do
- Bearing in mind the provisions of Articles 46, paragraph 1, a) of the Convention and
Article 37.1) of the Commission's Regulations, despite the fact that a special appeal on the case is
pending before the Supreme Court of the Argentine Republic.
- That the Commission, in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Argentina
(OEA/Ser.L/V/II.49, doc.19, of 11 April, 1980, pages 223 and 224), upon analyzing the performance
of the military tribunals beginning March 1976, stated that "...the alleged criminals were not allowed
to choose their own defense attorneys but were assigned official military defenders who were not
licensed lawyers. These circumstances ...were serious infringements of the right to defense inherent
in due process. These situations violate basic provisions of the Constitution. One of these is Article
18 dealing with due process... and Article 95 ... which provides the following: 'In no case may the
President exercise judicial functions...'" And with regard to the right to an impartial trial, it pointed
out the following: "...the Military Courts composed of officers involved in the repression of the same
crimes they are judging, do not offer guarantees of sufficient impartiality. This is aggravated by the
fact that in a military court, the defense is in the hands of a military officer, meaning, that the defense
is taken over by a person who is also part of, and has strong disciplinary ties to, the same force
responsible for investigation and repressing the acts with which the accused is charged."
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
- To declare admissible the communication dealing with Case 9635 presented by Mr.
Osvaldo Antonio López.
- To declare that, in application of the provisions of Articles 48, paragraph 1.f) of the
Convention and 45 of the Regulations, it places itself at the disposal of the parties in this case with
a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human rights
recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, in view of the fact that the positions and
intentions of the parties have been sufficiently clarified and, in the Commission's opinion, the matter,
due to its nature, lends itself to settlement through this procedure.
- To convey this resolution to the Government of the Argentine Republic and to the
[ Inter-American Human Rights