Thanks to financial support from the ESRC Knowledge Exchange Fund, The Leverhulme Trust, and the British Academy in the United Kingdom, since May 2015, a partnership has been built between the Latin American Centre at the University of Oxford, Chile’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and Uruguay’s Observatorio Luz Ibarburu. Subsequently, the Chilean Senate (Centro de Extensión) and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights joined this collaboration, followed by the Human Rights Secretariat of the Uruguayan central trade union PIT-CNT, the Montevideo Municipal Government and the Brazilian Movimento de Justiça e Direitos Humanos (Movement of Justice and Human Rights, MJDH).
This partnership held three objectives:
- To share and exchange experiences at the regional level on investigations into Plan Condor crimes.
- To evaluate the Plan Condor Trial in Argentina and the implications of the final verdict within the region.
- To develop strategies and suggest specific tools to facilitate the investigation of Condor crimes in each country and at the regional level.
In order to achieve these goals, two knowledge exchange events were organised, one in Chile in December 2015 and one in Uruguay in June 2016, each with its own set of activities: a conference on the first day and a closed-session workshop on the second. The conferences, with presentations from local judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and human rights activists directly involved in investigating crimes, assessed accountability efforts undertaken in Chile, Uruguay, Brasil y Argentina to investigate Condor atrocities. Moreover, workshops also took place, involving a total of 60 participants who were specifically invited, including academics, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, public policy experts, and members of civil society. Taking as a departure point the Plan Condor trial in Buenos Aires and similar lawsuits linked to Condor in Chile and Uruguay, the two main purposes of the workshops were to a) debate and tackle the obstacles, whether legal or factual, that delay or hinder the investigation of Condor crimes, and b) generate new strategies and tools that could be implemented at the regional level to overcome them, accelerating the elucidation of these atrocities in the near future.
To conclude this first stage, we published a report in November 2016 that gathers the main conclusions and recommendations emerging from this partnership that developed over several months. The report consists of four parts. Firstly, it provides a brief overview of Plan Condor; secondly, it describes the progress of criminal accountability for Condor crimes across the region; thirdly, it sets out the main difficulties and challenges that have slowed down and hindered accountability for Condor crimes; and finally, it proposes three main recommendations that arose from this multidisciplinary network of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, human rights activists, anthropologists, and archivists, to promote and facilitate the investigation of Condor crimes. The report recommends:
- Setting up multidisciplinary teams dedicated to investigating human rights atrocities;
- Creating a regional database or repository with information on Condor crimes;
- Strengthening regional channels ensuring a smooth flow of evidence for use in criminal trials.
The Latin American Centre of Oxford and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Humanity of the Republic of Argentina (PCCH) organised a workshop in Buenos Aires on 8th and 9th May 2018 on the topic of “Investigating Crimes against Humanity in South America: Challenges for the Present and the Future”. The workshop was financed by the European Union’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, within the framework of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie project no. 702004. The event brought together over 100 local and international specialists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay who exchanged their experience and knowledge regarding the investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity in South America. The workshop was organised in collaboration with Londres 38 and the Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos (Association of the Relatives of Executed Political Prisoners, AFEP) in Chile, the Directorate of Historical Memory and Reparations of Paraguay’s Ministry of Justice, the Observatorio Luz Ibarburu in Uruguay, and the Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences of the University of the Republic in Uruguay.
The workshop was framed around six themes:
- Investigating past crimes;
- The atrocities of Operation Condor;
- Sexual violence during dictatorships;
- The use of archives during trials;
- The role of civil society;
- The search for the disappeared.
In February 2019, we published a policy brief that a) gathers the experiences of institutional actors and civil society members involved in the elucidation of crimes of humanity in South America and b) identifies strategies for advancing the investigation of such crimes. The policy brief is divided into four parts. Firstly, it offers a brief historical account of the crimes against humanity committed in South America and provides an overview of the trials that have taken place since the return to democracy in the region. Secondly, it analyses the challenges and advances so far in investigating crimes against humanity in the region. Thirdly, it identifies five priorities to speed up the elucidation of past transnational atrocities in South America, laying out five short-term priorities that should guide the investigations in the near future:
- Investigating crimes against humanity must be a public policy, fully undertaken and endorsed by the three state powers of the executive, legislature, and judiciary;
- Crimes against humanity must not be examined as isolated events, but rather, as part of systematic atrocities supported by the state;
- Investigations of crimes against humanity must also encompass sexual violence and crimes committed by civilians;
- States must enact comprehensive policies to find and identify victims of forced disappearances;
- States must guarantee genuine access to archives related to human rights violations for the promotion of justice and reparation.