Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praised the Obama Administration for its decision to declassify and publicly release records from Argentina’s “Dirty War.” The announcement came as President Obama visits Argentina this week, and following the urging of Human Rights First. In a letter to President Obama the organization urged him to use this week’s trip as an opportunity to release the documents pertaining to this bleak time in Argentina’s history. Following Argentina’s 1976 coup, an estimated 30,000 people were killed or “disappeared” by the Argentine regime.
“Release of these documents is important not only for the people of Argentina, who continue to struggle to come to terms with a dark chapter in their history. It’s important for Americans, too,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “We have to come to terms with the role our country played in the so-called Dirty War. We can’t close the gap between our actions and our ideals until we can measure how far we strayed. And we can’t learn the lessons of the past until we know the role of our own government in supporting the military dictatorship.”
President Obama’s visit to Argentina coincides with the 40th anniversary of the onset of these atrocities. It will also be the first by a U.S. president since 2005, when President Bush’s visit to attend the Summit of the Americas was marked by anti-U.S. protests, and the first U.S. state visit to the country since 1990. In the years since then, Argentina has a new, democratically-elected government that appears eager to work with and develop strong ties to the United States.
Human Rights First notes that declassifying and releasing these documents from the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense is a strong gesture of support for Argentina’s new government, for its people, and for the cause of human rights around the world. It also sends a clear message that the United States repudiates any past participation in or support or regimes that torture, building on President Obama’s legacy of supporting the release of information about the United States’ past mistakes in using torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees in the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11.
Human Rights First has issued a new backgrounder, detailing how declassification of documents related to the “Dirty War” will support key national security interests of the United States and bolster future bilateral relationship with Argentina.