Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Reappearance of the Desaparecidos

The Supreme Court of Argentina today nullified two laws dating from shortly after the military dictatorship. The laws had granted amnesty to military officers for human rights violations, including abduction, torture, and killings. The term desaparecido (Spanish for "disappeared") refers to opponents of the government who vanished without a trace. Unfortunately, it is far from unique to Argentina.

At least 11,000, and possibly closer to 30,000, people died or disappeared during the seven years of dictatorship. The Supreme Court ruling clears the way for criminal prosecutions in at least some of those cases. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 300 to 400 military officers may be brought to trial.

Today is a proud day for democracy and accountability in Argentina, and also a reminder to the United States that we must never trade freedom for security. Indeed, while the comparison of Guantánamo to the Soviet gulag doesn't quite fit, the Gitmo detainees are quite literally desaparecidos — detained without the ability to contact their families or confer with a lawyer.