December 6, 2013
‘They treated us as if we were responsible’
Judge, prosecutor tapped phones of disappeared 16-year-old’s family members
Human rights organizations yesterday demanded impeachment proceedings against one of the judges and the provincial prosecutor who were in charge of a case involving Luciano Arruga, a 16-year-old boy who disappeared in 2009.
The two judicial authorities are being accused of having ordered the tapping the phones of the teenager’s relatives, instead of investigating the suspected involvement of Buenos Aires provincial police in the forced disappearance.
In a press conference at the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), Vanesa Orieta and her mother Mónica Alegre accused the prosecutor Celia Cejas, with permission from provincial Judge Gustavo Banco, of having tapped their telephone calls from April 2009 to August 2010.
“They treated us as if we were responsible for the forced disappearance of my brother,” Orieta said between tears.
CELS Director Gastón Chillier explained that his organization, along with Arruga’s relatives and the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights (APDH) from La Matanza, yesterday filed a request for impeachment procedures against Cejas and Banco.
“This is a structural failure,” Chillier emphasized. “They are investigating the victims instead of examining those suspected of disappearing Luciano. When police officers are involved, judicial officials behave as accomplices.”
Chillier added that the Cejas had been appointed by the Buenos Aires province Attorney-General María del Carmen Falbo, “and her conduct in the case implies an institutional responsibility,” Chillier pointed out. Maximiliano Medina, a lawyer working for CELS, told the Herald that they are thinking about requesting a meeting with Falbo.
Luciano Arruga was just 16 when he disappeared on December 31, 2009 . He lived in a poor neighbourhood in Lomas del Mirador, La Matanza, Buenos Aires province. He was eager to finish secondary school to please his sister. As soon as he vanished, his sister and mother began looking for him and asked the first prosecutor who examined the case, Roxana Castelli, to investigate the involvement of the provincial police.
But Orieta yesterday said that Castelli did not even meet the relatives until a witness appeared and said he had seen the teenager tortured at a house in Lomas del Mirador that operated as a police station.
Castelli was removed from the case by Falbo because she had delegated the whole investigation to the provincial police, the same force accused of having killed the boy and hidden his body in order to destroy any evidence of their crime.
Provincial prosecutor Cejas began examining the case and ordered a search of an area known as Monte Dorrego, a piece of wasteland in Lomas del Mirador where police cars were parked for three hours on the day Arruga was disappeared and where it was thought he could have been buried. No evidence was found that the teenager had been there, however Medina said that they have reported failures in the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Cejas ordered the phones of Arruga’s relatives tapped and eight police officers involved in the case, who were dismissed earlier this year by former provincial security Minister Ricardo Casal.
The family’s lawyers could not access the file with the recordings until after the case was declared as a forced disappearance in February, which involves the participation of state officials, and thus saw the case transferred to a federal judge. That’s when the family found out about the phone-tapping and that the police officers involved had been talking about the human rights activists, which implied a threat to their security, as lawyer Juan Manuel Combi (APDH) pointed out.
“We are the victims and we are treated like shit,” Vanesa Orieta, Arruga’s sister, yesterday said. A young sociology student, Orieta was wearing a white T-shirt with the images of her brother and Julio López, the former victim of the dictatorship opression who was forcibly disappeared for second time in 2006.
“They have been investigating us as if we were the police officers who disappeared my brother,” the young woman said, adding: “We are discriminated against and underestimated because we come from a poor neighbourhood.”
Orieta was the first to report that a group of police officers had asked her brother to carry out robberies for them and after he refused, he was taken to the police station and beaten to death.
Yesterday she also pointed out that the eight policemen involved in the case have not been indicted by the judge.
“We are used to this mistreatment and I don’t think I will ever find my brother,” she said with a pessimism that permeated her words.
“This is the justice that us, poor people, have to face,” Mónica Alegre, Arruga’s mother, said with tears streaming down her cheeks. “They slammed the door in my face when the only thing I wanted was my son back,” she cried.