December 8, 2013
Optimism on displayWednesday, October 16, 2013
In Argentina, plaintiffs still waiting
Regardless of the outcome, relatives of dictatorship victims say that such high-profile exposure is good news in their attempts to reignite debate over the repression carried out in the 1970s against union leaders in the factory located in González Catán, Buenos Aires.
“Besides the final result — we think it will be quite difficult to obtain a favourable ruling — it is important to spread word of the case and push Argentine courts to act swiftly,” Eduardo Fachal, one of the lawyers who is representing victims and has filed the suit against the German company, told the Herald yesterday.
Though judges in Argentina have agreed to start examining the so-called “civil complicity” during the dictatorship and have already started questioning some executives — the case involving the Mercedes Benz plant appears to be stuck in neutral.
Judge Alicia Vence is in charge of investigating the 14 cases involving workers from the factory who were disappeared during the dictatorship and is the same magistrate who has indicted three executives from automaker Ford co. for crimes committed during the military regime.
However, the two cases seem markedly different, at least in the possibility of finding evidence. Workers were arrested and tortured with the Ford plant, with some supervisors taking part in illegal procedures. Meanwhile, in the case of Mercedes Benz, two workers were arrested while on the job and taken to the San Justo Brigade and military garrison of Campo de Mayo, which was one of the biggest clandestine detention centres in Argentina.
Héctor Ratto, a survivor of the camp, reported that Mercedes Benz chief Juan Tasselkraut also gave officials information on how to locate another worker to be disappeared.
In 2001, Tasselkraut was called to testify at the so-called Trials for Truth in La Plata and when he was asked if he considered the rise in productivity and the decrease in labour conflict within the plant to be somehow related to the military repression, he replied: “Well, miracles don’t happen.”
In a case filed in 1999 in Germany, where Mercedes Benz is headquartered, the German judiciary considered that there were no grounds to indict Tasselkraut. He has not been questioned about the case that was opened in Argentina in 2002, which later got new life after the nullification of the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws that prevented those who had committed crimes against humanity from being taken to court.
“He has to testify because he was the one who gave Diego Núñez’ address to the military so that he could be kidnapped,” Fachal said, adding that he held a meeting with Judge Vence to request that she call on Rubén Cuevas, who was the legal adviser for Mercedes Benz during the dictatorship, to testify.
In the so-called “Trials for Truth” he said the company had donated equipment to be used in the neonatology unit of the Campo de Mayo hospital, which raised suspicions because the only babies born there were from prisoners.
Meanwhile, the case in Argentina does not seem to be making much progress and there is hope for what the US case could mean for the case as a whole.
“Plaintiffs are demanding indemnity but are also taking into account the idea of an comprehensive reparation,” the lawyers said. “We want the Mercedes Benz company to build a hospital in González Catán.”