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Investigation of Argentina’s “Dirty War” Set Precedent for Inquiry into Iran’s “Summer of Blood”

Oct 06
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Familis paying tribute at the massgrave of the victims of 1988 political prisoners massacare in Iran
Familis paying tribute at the massgrave of the victims of 1988 political prisoners massacare in Iran

Town Hall, By Ken Blackwell 

Friday, 6 October 2017

In the 1990s, I and my distinguished colleague Charlotte Ponticelli had the privilege of working with Dr. Clyde Snow, one of the world’s foremost experts in forensic anthropology, who played an instrumental role in bringing justice to Argentina by uncovering the mass graves left behind by the country’s “Dirty War.” His actions and investigation helped uncover the truth about what was an incredibly deadly series of crimes carried out over nearly a decade. Holding the regime in Argentina accountable set a valuable precedent and demonstrated the global community’s commitment to upholding justice and human rights, which must be maintained today.

After Argentine president Isabel Perón was deposed in 1976, a military junta took over the presidency and government, establishing a dictatorship and placing all levels of government under military control. During the regime’s rule between the 1970s and early 1980s, the dictatorship led by Jorge Rafaél Videla began to hunt down its left-wing political opponents and where tens of thousands were imprisoned and persecuted for their political beliefs.

Over time, the public became more aware of the human rights violations that were being carried out, and in 1979, Amnesty International accused Videla’s military government of causing the disappearance of 15,000 to 20,000 Argentine citizens.

At first, no information was provided as to the locations of their prisoners. Snow’s work in Argentina after the junta regime fell changed all of that, when forensic scientists were invited to the country in order to investigate the atrocities committed during the “Dirty War.” Dr. Snow recruited a group of Argentinean students to aid in his investigation. He led his team through the methodical excavation of unmarked graves, carefully organizing and recording all of the remains and evidence they found. Snow’s findings brought light to the families of the victims, who previously had no knowledge of their relatives’ fates. His testimony and evidence presented in court also led to the conviction of several members of the junta dictatorship. Today, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team that was created as a result of Snow’s inquiry continues to use his methods to investigate human rights abuses.

In the 1990s, I and my distinguished colleague Charlotte Ponticelli had the privilege of working with Dr. Clyde Snow, one of the world’s foremost experts in forensic anthropology, who played an instrumental role in bringing justice to Argentina by uncovering the mass graves left behind by the country’s “Dirty War.” His actions and investigation helped uncover the truth about what was an incredibly deadly series of crimes carried out over nearly a decade. Holding the regime in Argentina accountable set a valuable precedent and demonstrated the global community’s commitment to upholding justice and human rights, which must be maintained today.

After Argentine president Isabel Perón was deposed in 1976, a military junta took over the presidency and government, establishing a dictatorship and placing all levels of government under military control. During the regime’s rule between the 1970s and early 1980s, the dictatorship led by Jorge Rafaél Videla began to hunt down its left-wing political opponents and where tens of thousands were imprisoned and persecuted for their political beliefs.

Over time, the public became more aware of the human rights violations that were being carried out, and in 1979, Amnesty International accused Videla’s military government of causing the disappearance of 15,000 to 20,000 Argentine citizens.

At first, no information was provided as to the locations of their prisoners. Snow’s work in Argentina after the junta regime fell changed all of that, when forensic scientists were invited to the country in order to investigate the atrocities committed during the “Dirty War.” Dr. Snow recruited a group of Argentinean students to aid in his investigation. He led his team through the methodical excavation of unmarked graves, carefully organizing and recording all of the remains and evidence they found. Snow’s findings brought light to the families of the victims, who previously had no knowledge of their relatives’ fates. His testimony and evidence presented in court also led to the conviction of several members of the junta dictatorship. Today, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team that was created as a result of Snow’s inquiry continues to use his methods to investigate human rights abuses.

Similarly, during Iran’s “summer of blood,” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s “fatwa” order to execute leftists and members of the principal opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) was implemented with deadly efficiency. Over a period of just five months, the commissions or “death committees” established to carry out executions rounded up tens of thousands of political prisoners, giving them “trials” that lasted only minutes. In total, nearly 30,000 Iranian citizens were executed as part of the regime’s campaign to wipe out its opposition.

Since 1988, the Iranian regime has worked hard to cover up these horrors, as the locations of the mass grave sites remain largely unknown and the public is banned from visiting those that have been uncovered. However, last year’s emergence of a tape recording of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s designated successor in 1988, condemning the massacre during a meeting of high ranking officials made it impossible for the regime to deny the massacre. In the recording of the August 1988 meeting, Montazeri states that the massacre was “the greatest crime committed under the Islamic Republic” and that the "mass executions without trials, particularly as it relates to prisoners and captives…definitely over time will favor them and the world will condemn us.” The fact that senior officials of the regime—all of whom continue to serve today—were present at this meeting proves their direct culpability in these heinous crimes.

 
 
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Last modified on Friday, 06 October 2017 21:21

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