Alan Iud, human rights lawyerSunday, February 9, 2014
‘We cannot expect judges to reform the judiciary’
Born: May 21, 1981
Position: Lawyer, leads the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo’s legal team. He was appointed as a substitute judge for the Criminal Cassation Court.
Newspapers: Página/12 and La Nación
Books he is reading: Hugo Chávez: Mi primera vida (Ignacio Ramonet), Soccernomics, International Criminal Law (Antonio Cassese)
Alan Iud may be young but that does not mean he doesn’t have more than a few memorable legal battles under his belt: he took part in the case of Clarín’s owner Ernestina Herrera de Noble’s children, Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera’s irregular adoption, and he also had a leading role in the proceeding that in 2012 ended with a 50-year conviction to late former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and other repressors of the last dictatorship for the systematic plan to appropriate children.
Last year, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner included Iud in a list of 10 substitute judges for the Criminal Cassation Court, but he prefers not to talk about that to focus on the work of the the human rights group founded in 1977 that still searches for around 400 grandchildren snatched during the state terrorism era.
He welcomes the Herald in the Grandmothers headquarters and he says that it has been a good summer. Much to celebrate as the human rights organization recovered its 110th missing grandchild.
Is there any new line of research for this year?
Last year, two important tools were created: the Prosecutor’s Unit on Children’s Appropriation headed by Pablo Parenti and the Justice Ministry’s Plan Buscar, which offers rewards to those providing useful information that help locate missing grandchildren. They are too new but we hope to have good results this year. The Unit is useful to shorten the times in the investigation and also to cooperate with Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo with information we have not been able to access yet. In addition, we want to address the programme to the members of the armed and security forces. As they are not willing to break their pact of silence, we think that maybe money can influence them. This is not a magic formula but we are optimistic.
But have you received any report from the armed forces last year?
The reports are confidential but most are from the inner circle of the appropriators. Last year, the majority of the ads for the programme were aired during soccer matches, so we kept on receiving the same kind of reports that we used to. We want to address the ads to a different kind of public.
But how can you get to the military?
It is not a mystery — we need to communicate through the channels of the armed forces, their bulletins or magazines. It may be necessary to increase the reward.
There is a proposal to carry out mandatory DNA testing. Is that possible?
On first glance, it has some problems. The genetic database (BNDG) has to be capable of analyzing all the samples and there are some difficulties with Supreme Court jurisprudence. The Court says that a person can be forced to undergo a DNA test in order to verify if he or she is the child of disappeared parents but only in particular circumstances and following a judge’s order. We would also need a broader consensus but it’s always good to keep on discussing new ways to find the missing grandchildren.
There are some sectors that suggest plea bargains to exchange information about the disappeared for a lesser sentence. Would the Grandmothers support this idea?
Historically, they have not. It’s difficult to express how this possibility affects them. Some Grandmothers say: “I couldn’t look my grandchild in his or her eyes if I had negotiated impunity for his appropriators, who might also have known what happened to his parents.” The Grandmothers do not agree on negotiating impunity and I find the proposal difficult in this particular context.
Those who are taken to court are members of the military or the security forces. They are not ordinary people who turned up there by chance. They are convinced they did the right thing. They take their convictions as if they were political prisoners. They have never acknowledged the systematic plan to snatch babies. In a system of rewards, even a convicted repressor can benefit.
Can you explain that?
For instance, (former Navy officer) Alfredo Astiz could be rewarded if he gave information. But in order to receive that money he cannot be involved in the crime. There is a huge pact of silence among the repressors and they prefer not to talk in order to avoid being ousted from their circles.
Next week, a trial against former judges for their role during the dictatorship will begin in Mendoza. Is there a need to purify the judiciary?
It’s clear that the judiciary was an accomplice in state terrorism. There are few magistrates these days who were judges during the military regime but there are many who began their careers then. We cannot expect the judiciary to purify itself, the boost for reform must come from outside. Last year, there were attempts to reform the judiciary but they were quashed by corporativism and the Supreme Court. To avoid that scenario, many social agents should be involved in the discussion.
The Supreme Court created three commissions of criminal judges to propose changes. Can that be enough?
No. We cannot expect a beneficial reform from the judges. They think of their interests. They think of the judiciary as something that belongs to them, not as a state branch that has to guarantee the citizens’ rights. The best reform proposals have always been quashed by judges.
Last year, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo met with church authorities who promised to help in the search. Did you receive any information?
Not yet. We want the baptism certificates because there is a hypothesis that those who gave the snatched babies were then their godfathers. We need documents. In the military garrison of Campo de Mayo, there was a nun’s congregation that “assisted” the pregnant women who were held there. The Church should give us those documents but also call its parishioners to testify.
Last year there was uproar with the national genetic database (BNDG) fuelled by Clarín Group’s Journalist Jorge Lanata. Did you see it as a consequence of the Noble Herrera case?
Undoubtedly it must have been connected to that. It was clear that there was rage against the Grandmothers. They did not check the basic information, which shows that there was a lack of journalistic interest.
Is the Noble Herrera case over?
Yes. Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera provided their blood sample because there was a possibility they could be children of disappeared parents, even Ernestina Herrera de Noble acknowledged that possibility in a letter. It took 10 years to make the Clarín Group accept that.
You mean that it’s still in doubt whether Marcela and Felipe’s DNA samples should stay in the BNDG?
No, I don’t think so. But the Supreme Court still has to examine some requests. Any decision from the Court could help them reignite the discussion by changing strategies. The case is over because they agreed to undergo DNA tests and leave the samples. But, if there is something we learned in this case, it’s that they change their strategies all the time.
There is a proposal to decrease the maximum penalty in the Penal Code from 50 to 30 years. Videla was the only man who received that penalty in the trial for systematic children’s appropriation. How do you asses this change?
It’s OK. A 50-year penalty has to be for exceptional cases such as the plan to snatch babies during the dictatorship. That penalty was given to the head of state terrorism. We agree with reducing penalties for ordinary crimes. We criticize the current disproportion of penalties. Now a person accused of an “express kidnapping” can receive a heftier conviction than an appropriator. It is good to put an end to Juan Carlos Blumberg’s reforms, which proved to be inefficient to fight crime.