The Judiciary must act to deal with the damage to the health of those indicted for so-called crimes against humanity in jail
Monday October 18, 2010 | Published in La Nacion
With no official information available various organizations have made known the death of 118 persons deprived of their liberty, most of them in ordinary prisons and in extremely risky conditions for their health. They are officers and petty officers of the Armed and Security Forces indicted for crimes “against humanity”, that took place in the ‘70s in occasion of the fight against subversion.
Almost all persons that died in captivity had not been convicted. It is a unique and unfortunate statistics, with no precedent in Justice. It comprises aging persons, almost all of them over 70 years old, and most of them over 80, that have died in the prisons where they were held with no consideration for their health and their life, lacking specific medication, medical check-ups and periodic analysis and above all, the prompt access to reanimation services or intensive care for emergency cases.
Article 18 of the National Constitution establishes that prisons are for the security and not the punishment of detainees. Federal facilities are prepared to accommodate a population with an average age much lower than that of the accused of these crimes that occurred 35 years ago. Emergencies cannot and have not been effectively addressed, since in all cases the security measures of the prison require opening and closing up to eight or more doors, with strict control measures, both to access the patient in case of emergency, as well as to take him to an external hospital that has a minimum of complexity sufficient to prevent his death.
Many others who suffered imprisonment died shortly after being released on bail after a long confinement, that for the reasons already mentioned, definitely deteriorated their health. They endured physical but also psychological damage, product of being submitted to procedures carried out in public places rented for that purpose (theaters and even a soccer field), where the accused and their families are attacked and insulted by an audience belonging to organizations that gather ideological activists. Scenes are broadcast on television where the accused are led handcuffed and transported on a stretcher and with serum, given their poor health.
Many judges who handle these types of cases have sent persons to prison being aware or having to be aware that, because of their age or health condition, they were not able to survive in a prison facility in unsuitable conditions. These people are kept in prison for long periods under these conditions, or their home detentions have been revoked, despite suffering acute mental disabilities such as Alzheimer’s disease, advanced cancer and heart disease.
These events, which take place only in cases of prosecution of crimes called “crimes against humanity”, are contrary to a judicial tradition of decorum and respect for human rights in criminal proceedings. They entail the unfortunate breach of various regulations of constitutional scope protecting human dignity that Argentina has undertaken to ensure for all citizens.
The highest authorities in the judiciary should act immediately to end this situation as it is the same article 18 of the Constitution which provides that any action on the pretext of precaution which may lead to mortify detainees beyond what security demands will make the judge that authorizes it liable.
The grim statistics, unfortunately, does not deny the allegations regarding the asymmetry, revenge and lawlessness that weigh on this kind of trails For if anything was missing, now death has been added.