January 23, 2018
Friday, February 10, 2017

Wrongfooting rights

This is not the first time that we have had occasion to accuse the Mauricio Macri administration of being indifferent at best to human rights but unfortunately the nomination of the lawyer Carlos Horacio de Casas to fill Argentina’s place on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) obliges us to repeat ourselves. At the forefront of the objections of several human rights organisations to De Casas is the fact that his only known contribution to the numerous trials of the 1976-83 military dictatorship’s state terrorism was the defence of the Mendoza repressor Enrique Gómez Saa. This is obviously an extremely serious objection but even taking the most benign view of this role of De Casas (that he has a soft spot for lunatics since Gómez Saa was eventually declared insane or that he considered the officer to be a co-victim of the dictatorship since he clashed with former Third Army Corps commander Luciano Benjamín Menéndez), it is important to stress that this nomination still remains deplorable.

De Casas must be considered unsuitable for the CIDH not only because of this single unfortunate case but because all the rest of his career is completely unrelated to human rights. De Casas has basically been a corporate lawyer adept at finding tax loopholes for his business clients — hardly the profile for protecting the victims of oppression throughout the hemisphere. Without asking Macri to go looking for the many excellent candidates from Argentina’s internationally respected human rights organisations, he has much better material even within his own ranks. One example might be Buenos Aires province Human Rights Secretary Santiago Cantón — not that Cantón has shown interest in changing his job but Macri’s coalition has sufficient variety to contain various candidates of similar quality or at least superior to De Casas. There is absolutely no reason why withdrawing this disastrous candidacy should leave Macri and the Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj without options for an equally loyal and far more suitable CIDH representative.

Back in 2009 then City Mayor Macri was forced to accept that his first choice to head the Metropolitan Police, Jorge “Fino” Palacios, was an error and he should now be reaching similar conclusions about his AFI intelligence chief Gustavo Arribas as well as De Casas — admitting to mistakes need not be synonymous with political failure. But anything would be better than reinforcing the impression that the Macri presidency is hostile to human rights.

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