Press Release

IACHR Brings Argentina Case before the IA Court

February 19, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On December 4, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 13.392, the Julien-Grisonas family, concerning Argentina.

The case relates to the state of Argentina’s international responsibility for the forced disappearance of Mario Roger Julien Cáceres and Victoria Lucía Grisonas Andrijauskaite, which began with a military–police operation during Argentina’s last dictatorship. The case also refers to the lack of appropriate investigation into and sanction and reparation for these acts and the torture, forced disappearance, and other violations against Anatole and Victoria, the son and daughter of Mr. Julien Cáceres and Ms. Grisonas Andrijauskaite, which occurred as a result of the same operation.

This case is also emblematic of the serious human rights violations that took place during the dictatorship in Argentina as part of Operation Condor. Specifically, it reflects how repression was coordinated between Argentina and Uruguay to target Uruguayan refugees in Buenos Aires and also is an example of the practice of forced disappearance. This case was the first to reveal the systematic plan for appropriating young or newborn children after their parents had been forcibly disappeared or executed.

On September 26, 1976, a joint military–police operation took place at the house of the Julien-Grisonas family in the town of San Martín, Buenos Aires Province. Mario Roger Julien Cáceres, a Uruguayan national, had taken refuge in Argentina for political reasons in 1973 following the coup d’état in Uruguay. In 1974 he was joined by his wife, Victoria Lucía Grisonas Andrijauskaite, and their son, Anatole Boris, born in Uruguay in 1972. The couple’s second child, Victoria Eva, was born in Buenos Aires in 1975. The joint military–police operation—which began in the early afternoon of Sunday, September 26, 1976, and lasted until sundown—was led by the Secretariat of Intelligence (SIDE) and the Federal Police, with the involvement of army personnel. The entire area was taken over by military and police forces and the repression involved a large number of heavily armed troops, the majority of whom were in uniform, a large number of vehicles, and two tanks that cut off traffic at either end of the city block.

Mario Julien was illegally detained, wounded, and last seen on the day of the military operation, apparently dead, lying on the floor at the corner of his house surrounded by military personnel. His body has been missing ever since. Victoria Grisonas was also illegally detained, brutally beaten in broad daylight in front of her son and neighbors, and driven to Automotores Orletti, one of the clandestine detention and torture centers used during Operation Condor. Those working there included intelligence personnel from Argentina and Uruguay, and several of those detained there were Uruguayans, mainly members of the People’s Victory Party (Partido por la Victoria del Pueblo, PVP). Victoria Grisonas was tortured at Orletti and then disappeared. Her whereabouts remain unknown. Anatole (who was four years old) and Victoria (aged sixteen months) were illegally detained during the operation and taken to Orletti with their mother. They remained there until October 1976 when they were moved clandestinely to Montevideo, Uruguay, and taken to the headquarters of the Defense Information Service (Servicio de Información de Defensa, SID). The two children were held at the SID until December 1976, when they were moved clandestinely to Chile and abandoned in Plaza O’Higgins in Valparaiso on December 22, 1976.

They were found by carabineros and taken to an orphanage where they remained for a few months. They were then separated and taken to different houses until they were handed over to a Chilean couple, Jesús Larrabeiti and Silvia Yáñez, who had no links with the military regime. Following an intense search campaign within Argentina and abroad led by the children’s biological grandmothers, Anatole and Victoria’s paternal grandmother ascertained their whereabouts in July 1979. On August 2, 1979, the children’s biological family signed a notarized certificate with Mr. Larrabeiti and Ms. Yáñez in which they consented to their adopting the children, and in which the couple agreed that the children would maintain ties with their biological family. Although dictatorships remained in power in the Southern Cone at the time, Anatole and Victoria thus became the first disappeared children to be found and to have their identity restored to them.

For the more than 18 years that the Full Stop and Due Obedience laws remained in force in Argentina, there was total impunity around the serious human rights violations that were committed against the Julien-Grisonas family. When these laws were overturned and declared unconstitutional in 2005, a criminal investigation was opened into the crimes committed at Orletti. As a consequence, four former SIDE agents were given 20-year, 25-year, and life imprisonment sentences in 2011 for various crimes committed in Orletti, including the illegal deprivation of freedom and torture of Victoria Grisonas. This ruling was confirmed in 2013. In 2017, two former agents of the Argentine Federal Police Force who led the operation were sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for the crime of illegal deprivation of freedom to the detriment of Victoria Grisonas. This sentence acquitted the former police officers of the homicide of Mario Julien due to a lack of direct evidence regarding their involvement in this. On February 27, 2019, the Fourth Court of the Federal Chamber of Criminal Justice overturned this acquittal on the grounds that it was arbitrary and returned proceedings to the previous stage. The investigation into the crimes committed against Anatole and Victoria is ongoing.

The IACHR concluded in Merits Report 56/19 that Mario Julien and Victoria Grisonas were victims of forced disappearance. With regard to Mario Julien, the IACHR deemed that the existence of indications of his death is not grounds for modifying this legal decision. To date, his son and daughter have not had access to his mortal remains such that they can be certain of his fate, which inter-American jurisprudence establishes as the factor that distinguishes extrajudicial execution from forced disappearance. Likewise, the IACHR deemed that the forced disappearance of Mr. Julien was aggravated by the fact that he was a refugee. The IACHR also concluded that Anatole and Victoria were victims of forced disappearance between September 26, 1976, and August 2, 1979, when they recovered their identities and their ties with their biological family. The IACHR also concluded that over the course of the nearly three years in which the two children were missing, a series of other violations took place relating to their right to identity, specifically the rights to family life, a name, privacy, and a nationality. It also found that their rights to residence and transit were violated. The IACHR also deemed that Victoria Grisonas was a victim of torture. It further concluded that the events experienced by Anatole and Victoria during the military–police operation described above and while they were detained at Orletti entailed elements that make them torture.

The IACHR also determined that the state of Argentina violated the victims’ rights to judicial guarantees and judicial protection for not having punished those responsible for the forced disappearance of Mario Julien and the torture and forced disappearance of Anatole and Victoria, and for not having established the fate and whereabouts of Victoria Grisonas and Mario Julien. It also concluded that the state is responsible for obstructing the quest for justice by enforcing the Full Stop and Due Obedience laws and for the time it took to establish forced disappearance as a crime.

With regard to the statute of limitation on the civil lawsuit filed by Anatole and Victoria in 1996 for the damages caused to them and their biological parents, the IACHR once again drew attention to inter-American jurisprudence on the inappropriateness of implementing statutes of limitations on civil lawsuits when these concern grave human rights violations

Finally, the IACHR deemed that the application of article 280 of Argentina’s Civil and Commercial Code in a civil lawsuit for damages in which a first- and second-instance decision had been issued does not constitute a violation of article 8.2(h) of the American Convention. Likewise, it deemed that the exclusion of legal action set out in reparation laws 24.411 and 25.914 does not constitute a violation of the American Convention in this particular case.

In its Merits Reports, the IACHR made the following recommendations to the state of Argentina: (i) conduct a complete, impartial, effective investigation into the whereabouts of Mario Roger Julien Cáceres and Victoria Lucía Grisonas Andrijauskaite, and if appropriate, take the necessary measures to identify their mortal remains and return them to their families; (ii) conduct a criminal investigation into the human rights violations described in the Merits Report and initiate the appropriate criminal proceedings regarding the forced disappearance of Mario Roger Julien Cáceres and the forced disappearance and torture of Anatole Alejandro and Claudia Victoria Larrabeiti Yáñez, within a reasonable period of time, so as to completely clarify events, identify all those who may be responsible for them, and impose the corresponding sanctions; (iii) provide appropriate tangible and intangible reparation for the human rights violations set out in the Merits Report, including fair compensation and measures of satisfaction that include establishing and making public the historical truth of events, and other similar measures, in consultation with Anatole Alejandro and Claudia Victoria Larrabeiti Yáñez; (iv) implement an appropriate physical or mental healthcare program for Anatole Alejandro and Claudia Victoria Larrabeiti Yáñez, if they so wish. Any such measures should be agreed upon in consultation with them. Given that they are not under the jurisdiction of the state of Argentina, diplomatic or other means should be made available for complying with this measure at the specialized healthcare facility of their choice, or they should be paid an appropriate sum to cover any such treatment; and (v) take the necessary measures to prevent a similar incident from occurring again in the future. The measures of non-repetition that this case must include changes to the legislation and a change of practice in Argentina’s jurisprudence such that statutes of limitations cannot be applied to civil lawsuits relating to crimes against humanity, regardless of whether the lawsuits in question were initiated before the entry into force of the current regulations that establish that statutes of limitations cannot be applied in such cases. Measures should also be implemented to ensure that the necessary efforts continue to be made to ensure that investigations into crimes of humanity that were committed during the dictatorship move forward as quickly as possible, in accordance with the state’s international obligations, and to ensure that the identities of children who disappeared during the dictatorship are restored.

The IACHR referred the case to the IA Court because of the actions and omissions that occurred or continued to occur after September 5, 1984, the date on which the state of Argentina accepted the contentious jurisdiction of the IA Court.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 046/20