Court orders to remove articles from the Web
Ex-judge who allegedly supports dictatorship obtains favourable ruling in Entre Ríos.
The media in Concordia City, Entre Ríos province, has been shaken by a ruling against Google, Yahoo and a local online newspaper for having reported alleged links between a former judge and pro-military groups who committed crimes during the last dictatorship.
Whereas the former judge — who is the son-in-law of a man who headed the repression in Entre Ríos province and Bahía Blanca during the military regime — says that the stories published in the daily Junio and the websites included by Google and Yahoo damaged his career and his personal life, journalists say that the order to remove the articles on the former magistrate strongly affect their freedom of expression, having filed an appeal before a higher tribunal and vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.
On December 27, 2013, Judge Beatriz Aranguren agreed with the complaint filed by former judge Julián Genaro Quevedo and ordered Yahoo, Google, www.prensaindependiente.com.ar and www.diariojunio.com.ar to eliminate in their browsers the chance of getting to the blogs which delivered “misleading information” on Quevedo because those publications damaged his good name and prestige.
Everything started in 2011 when Quevedo was appointed by the Entre Ríos province Supreme Tribunal as a surrogate Labour judge.
Journalist Claudio Gastaldi published in the daily Junio that Quevedo allegedly signed a petition in 2003 addressed to former Mexican president Vicente Fox to reject former Navy officer Ricardo Cavallo’s extradition to Spain, where Judge Baltasar Garzón was waiting to judge him for the crimes committed in the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) clandestine detention centre during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. Cavallo was one of the torturers who had not been taken to court in Argentina due to the existence of the Due Obedience and Full Stop Laws but, thanks to the universal jurisdiction principle regarding human rights violations, could be held accountable in Madrid. When Argentine impunity laws were repealed, Cavallo was finally extradited to Buenos Aires and he finally was condemned to life imprisonmnet in 2011.
The journalist also wrote that Quevedo had signed another petition to support the armed and security forces in 2002. The petition also included his father-in-law’s signature, the late General Raúl José Ortiz, as well as Quevedo’s wife.
What Gastaldi’s lawyer highlighted was that Quevedo’s relatives’ names were also in the petition to support the repressors and he even said that it wasn’t nonsense to believe that he would have signed it himself due to his close relationship with the military.
Gastaldi, who is also the founder of the Permanent Assembly of Human rights (APDH) in Concordia, explained that Ortiz was in 1977 the head of Subzone 22, being one of those responsible for the repression in Entre Ríos province.
In an obituary published in the conservative daily La Nación, it was mentioned that Ortiz, who passed away in 2004, was also military junta president Roberto Viola’s Public Information secretary and that the late general became the head of the Border Patrol in 1981. During his military career, he was also sent to Mexico.
In 1979, he was appointed to head Subzone 51, having under his responsibility the “Little School” clandestine detention centre, a repressive icon in Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires province, information which was confirmed to the Herald by the federal prosecutor in charge of investigating the crimes committed in that area.
The late general Ortiz also signed the petitions in which Quevedo’s signature was allegedly included without his agreement.
“None of his relatives filed any complaint. He was the only one who did after we made this story public when we heard about his appointment,” the editor of the daily Junio told the Herald. That information was also confirmed by former judge Quevedo.
Gastaldi further said that readers warned him and his colleagues that Quevedo was listed in websites linked to Memoria Completa (Full Memory), the organization headed by Cecilia Pando, a notorious apologist of state terrorism.
“I do not even know who Cavallo is,” Quevedo told the Herald when this newspaper telephoned him. “I have never signed those petitions,” he added and explained that in 2011 he filed a habeas data request, demanding that the newspaper and the web browsers rectify the information which involved him in groups supporting those who committed crimes against humanity including torture, abductions, raping, babysnatching, killings and forced disappearances during the last dictatorship.
“I suffered a smear campaign from a member of the local Council who allegedly has a forcibly disappeared brother. She used to call me a killer,” Quevedo said to this newspaper.
According to Quevedo, these stories affected his career and he said he had never served in the judiciary during the dictatorship. In 2012, Quevedo was removed from his post by the Entre Ríos province Superior Tribunal for “procrastination.”
An open discussion
After Judge Aranguren’s ruling, the editors of daily Junio filed an appeal, complaining because they consider the judge only listened to one side of the story. They complained that in spite of having published Quevedo’s right to reply, Judge Aranguren ordered the removal of their articles, strongly affecting their right to expression.
Former judge adds that not even his right to reply was respected by Junio dialy, but its editor Gastaldi says that they fully informed Quevedo's arguments before the Entre Rìos' Superior Tribunal, thus they considered another reply "redundant".
“The judge considered that is better to respect the right of a citizen not taking charge of his past rather than to respect the rights of those reminding him of his past, especially when he is a public servant and has to be held accountable for his past and present actions,” Gastaldi said.
For his part, Quevedo said: “I don’t know how those names were included in those petitions.”
“With this ruling, many journalists may fear persecution or stigmatization. With judicial persecution, there isn’t constitutional obedience to freedom of expression or the right to information,” the journalist Gastaldi added.
An upper tribunal will have now to examine the case that can be even taken to the country’s highest court. The case has all the ingredients to set a precedent: new media, freedom of expression, the judiciary and the support given by social sectors to the last dictatorship.