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Kampagne gegen die Straflosigkeit

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Medizinische Flüchtlingshilfe Bochum e.V.

John Humphrey Freedom Award
Rights & Democracy
1001, de Maisonneuve Blvd. East, Suite 1100

Montréal (Québec) Canada H2L 4P9

Bochum, Germany April 12, 2006

Nomination of Dr. Martin Almada for 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award

As Medical Care Service for Refugees, Bochum we are pleased to send you our nomination for the 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award:
We would like to nominate Dr. Martin Almada, Paraguay.

Dr. Martin Almada is an outstanding human rights activist since several decades. As a victim and survivor of the Operation Condor he dedicated his life to reveal the secret of this operation.
Therefore he plays an exceptional role in the promotion of human rights and democratic development in the whole South America, where his work tremendously contributed to the further steps to be taken to achievement of further democratization in the region that had been suffered of the terror created by military dictatorships for a long periods in the second half of the 20th century. Especially in Paraguay, where he lives, Dr. Martin Almada played and keep playing an important role in the democratization process of the country.

The Operation Condor represented the organized and transboundery  state terrorism of the military dictatorships in the South America during the 70ies and 80ies.
After 1973 with the military coups in Chile and Uruguay, an international network of security forces started to operate within Latin America and outside. Especially from 1975 the Chilean secret police DINA extended its activities to the other countries in the region. Its repressive cooperation with the surrounding dictatorships of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and as well with its neighborhood country Argentine has been systematically extended after that time and became known as Operation Condor , which reached its highest degree of criminal activities in 1976, after the military coup in Argentine.
The Operation Condor was created and headed by the Chilean DINA, but all the security forces of the mentioned countries have actively participated in it. The operation was aiming to localize, abduct, torture and kill the political refugees, who fled from their home countries and found shelter in the other Southern Cone states, mostly in Argentine.

The number of victims of the Operation Condor never could be counted. In the whole region more than 40.000 people  the so called disappearances - have been kidnapped and killed by the security forces of those mentioned countries and most of them in Argentine. In addition to that, many children of those forcibly disappeared people were abducted by the security and illegally adopted by some supporters of military Junta. They grew up in the hands of their captors and there are still around 500 of them thought to be living without knowing their real identity since 30 years.

Assassinations of prominent exile politicians and military leaders were realized by the security of those participating countries not only in Latin America, but also in Italy, France, and the United States. Some of Condor's most notorious victims are the former interior minister and head of the Chilean army, General Carlos Prats, and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, killed in Buenos Aires in 1974 and the former President of Bolivia, Juan José Torres, assassinated in 1976 in the same country. In the same year the former President of the Uruguayan parliament Héctor Gutiérrez Ruiz and the Uruguayan ex-minister of education Zelmar Michelini were kidnapped, tortured and killed, again in Argentine.

The Operation Condor didnt stop at the regional boarders. The Uruguayan military leaders tried to kill US-Senator Edward Koch after he had presented an amendment to the US-Senate in order to suspend the military aid for those South American regimes committing systematically and widespread human rights violations, in 1976. The attempt to assassinate Senator Koch failed, whereas the Chilean DINA succeeded to murder Orlando Letelier, foreign minister of the former Allende Government, in Washington DC, blowing up his car. Chilean political leader Bernardo Leighton and his wife, Anita Fresno, were seriously injured after an assassination attempt in 1975 in Rome.

These are only some examples not all that present to what extend the Operation Condor reached, the whole Operation is not uncovered yet. Even today people are breaking their silence and telling that their relatives were also the victims of the Operation Condor. In Uruguay for example, in March 2006, again some families have denounced for the first time that their relatives were abducted in Argentine 30 years ago.
Although there have been Truth Commissions in Argentine, Chile and Uruguay, or currently in Paraguay too, in most of the cases the fate of the forcibly disappeared people is still unknown. And despite a transitional democratization process started about 15 – 23 years ago in all the countries affected by the Operation Condor , ongoing impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations is still widespread in the whole region. The process to bring those perpetrators before the court only recently started.
Human Rights organizations, survivors of the repression and family members associations of the victims of the military dictatorships in South America have been asking for Truth and Justice since decades. But despite of the democratization processes in their countries there are still a lot of obstacles before the truth and justice, which prevent those societies from achieving that goal. Some of those obstacles, such as amnesty laws, agreements with the transitional governments or other structural mechanisms that provide a status of untouchable to the perpetrators, are the legacy of the former military regimes or the following transitional governments. In addition to that the struggle against impunity often failed because of the severe difficulties in proving the individual responsibility of a certain perpetrator.

The Archive of Terror uncovered by Dr. Martin Almada provided a huge step forward in transitional justice in the whole region by providing detailed information about how the Operation Condor worked, who was responsible for the organized crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorships of Paraguay, Chile, Argentine, Uruguay and Bolivia. With more than 700.000 files, the Archives of Terror is the most important collection of documents of state terror ever recovered and it is a tremendous help to overcome the juridical hurdle created by the difficulties to prove the individual responsibilities.
Nowadays the archives built the main part of the Documentation Centre on Human Rights in the Palace for Justice in Asuncion, where the courts of the Paraguayan capital are located. The Archives of Terror contain the files of Paraguayan and other political prisoners or detained disappeared , including those who have been kidnapped from neighboring states and several recordings of their interrogations. Also the names of the torturers are registered in the archive files. 
Nowadays a Habeas Data Law in Paraguay guarantees legal access for all survivors and family members of the victims, to their own files, or to those of their killed or disappeared relatives. While most the documents focus on Operation Condor in Paraguay, they contain massive amounts of internationally relevant information, such as confidential letters regarding the involvement of neighboring states, including international collusion among these countries for the sharing of information and tracking down suspected activists. The documents illustrate the chain of command within the particular states and prove the shared responsibilities of the conspiring security forces. Numerous documents in the archives also highlight complicity, witting or otherwise, with U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the CIA.

Dr. Martin Almada didnt find the Archives of Terror by chance. He discovered them after long years of research work from exile, monitoring from there internal documents of the police, he had been able to receive. Since the time of his own imprisonment and the murder of his wife Celestina Perez de Almada, he had decided to prove these crimes and bring the perpetrators to court. And he did. After returning from exile he perfectly knew, were to take up the path of research inside Paraguay.
The main part of the archives could be discovered and seized in 1992, when Dr. Martin Almada entered the commissariat of Lambaré in the outskirts of Asuncion, together with other human rights activists and accompanied by the judge José Augustín Fernández, on December 22. Within a week he had convened a national commission to protect the archive.

But Dr. Martin Almadas research continued for another ten years. His latest activity of seizing additional documents took place in February 2002, when a group of human rights activists, led by him, visited several police stations, confiscating again sack loads of secret documents.
These newly discovered documents have already revealed, that even after dictator Stroessner was ousted, his surveillance mechanism continued to monitor suspected opponents.
Dr. Martin Almada kept working on the distribution of the information from the archives for bringing the perpetrators to the court. Most of the documents that Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon built on his indictment against the Chilean ex-dictator Pinochet in 1999, were from Archive of Terror .
Dr. Martin Almada traveled to Europe and presented the evidences he found out in the Archive to European judges investigating the genocide, torture and state terrorism claims against former Chilean dictator. He was twice interviewed by Judge Garzon and later on Garzon personally visited the Archives of Terror in Asuncion for continuing his investigation against Pinochet.

Armed with the material from the archives, Dr. Martin Almada initiated and supported the struggle of the Paraguayan civil society for truth and justice.
In 1994 he set up the Paraguayan branch of the American Association of Jurists (AAJ) and began to organize a series of Tribunals against the leading criminals, starting from 1995 with General Ramon Duarte Vera, Stroessner's Chief of the Police and considered the regime's chief torturer. Duarte was then living comfortably as Paraguay's ambassador to Bolivia. After hearing many witnesses of torture and assassination, the Tribunal convicted him - and though this judgment had no legal force, the evidence was so overwhelming, that he was subsequently recalled by the government, put on trial and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The same happened to the head of the army and chief of the military intelligence, General Benito Guanes Serrano.
Against the very head of the repression, Alfredo Stroessner, Dr. Almada reached the emission of an arrest warrant in 2002, since he immediately had opened a case against the ex-dictator right after his return from exile in France. Stroessner, who still keeps hiding in Brazil, is wanted by a Paraguayan court for murder of Dr. Martin Almadas wife Celestina Perez, for his wrongful imprisonment and the confiscation of his goods. Up to now Dr. Martin Almada keeps on working to achieve the extradition of Stroessner from Brazil.
With the help of Dr. Martin Almada, General Davalos, mentioned as Condor 1 in the archive files, could be arrested in 2005, his trial still continues.

Dr. Martin Almada enhanced lots of other activities in the field of human rights during the past decade. Most of them are listed in the detailed vita attached to this nomination letter.
So he has been the prime actor in the establishment of a Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in Asuncion and played an important role in forcing the Paraguayan parliament to release a compensation law for victims of the oppression.
He pushed the Paraguayan government to create a Commission for Truth and Justice , which has been implemented by law in August 2004 and took up its work a few months later. The mandate of the commission covers forced disappearances, assassinations, torture and degrading treatment, exile and other human rights violations committed by state terrorism. The investigation by the commission is still ongoing. Dr. Martin Almada and his Foundation Celestina Perez de Almada are part of a group of Human Rights activists, supplying support to the commission, not without criticizing the government publicly for the lack of the commissions financial resources and the short time frame of its mandate of only 18 months, which sets strict limits to its abilities.
Dr. Martin Almada keeps traveling frequently to other countries, testifying against the perpetrators of the Operation Condor to courts and parliamentary commissions dealing with the subject. He is giving lectures and providing information from the Archives of Terror to the other human rights organizations.
Recently he was able to establish a Museum of Memory in a former secret prison building given to his Foundation by the government, in the center of Asuncion. The Museum has been opened to the public in March 2006 and currently is exhibiting the instruments of former repression and also reproductions of documents from the Archives of Terror .

Dr. Martin Almada realizes all his activities without a big organization supporting him. Although he is the president of the Paraguayan branch of the American Association of Jurists and president of the Ethic Tribunal against Impunity and although he keeps networking with a lot of groups and activists all around the world, he remains as a lone fighter for the human rights. His main support comes from his second wife Maria Stella Caceres and the other members of the staff of his foundation. He doesn't receive any money from the foundation, on the contrary; he spends much of his savings from his years working for UNESCO, for the Foundation.
Martin Almada is committed to peace and non-violence and carries out his struggle independently from any political party or governmental affiliation.
His work had and still has a big influence on promoting the democratization process of Paraguay. But his activities are of high importance not just for Paraguay, but for the whole Latin America and, indeed, for the world. The discovery and confiscation of, as well as the public access to the Archives of Terror , became of worldwide importance, due to their influence on the international jurisdiction on crimes against humanity.
For the reasons mentioned above, Dr. Martin Almada highly merits the John Humphrey Freedom Award.
He undertook various exceptional efforts in the struggle against impunity and for the democratization of the societies in the Southern Cone. Each of them would be reason enough to give the award to Dr. Almada. The discovery of the Archives of Terror was a highly outstanding breakthrough in the fight for human rights in reference to the whole Latin America. Only thanks to his untiringly research work, this became possible.
This discovery by Dr. Martin Almada opened the door not only for arresting Chilean ex-dictator Pinochet in London. With the arrest of Pinochet a new chapter in the history of international justice could be written. And Dr. Almada continuously keeps writing on this chapter by putting the names of the main torturers on the agendas of courts and parliaments all over the world, particularly in Latin America. Giving the award to him, will encourage the work of human rights defenders to draw more attention to the Archives of Terror and make use of it more frequently in court cases on crimes against humanity.
Awarding Dr. Martin Almada will furthermore emphasize the general importance of the struggle against the impunity of human rights violations. Impunity is still a widespread legal and social disease. All around the world human rights organizations are trying to put an end to the structural injustice of impunity, unfortunately with rather limited success. The award received by Dr. Almada will globally help and encourage activists fighting against impunity and at the same time deter the perpetrators by giving more visibility to the Archives of Terror , which certainly became a symbol for the terrible events that once destroyed democracy in the southern cone of America.
Giving the Award to Dr. Martin Almada will not only help to increase public awareness about his tremendous human rights work in particular; it could help to protect democratic development in Paraguay in general. The democratic transition in Paraguay hasnt been completed yet and there is a high risk for a rollback to an authoritarian state. During the last weeks several hints appeared that the actual presidency of the country is trying to alter the constitution to strengthen and centralize its personal power.
And as Dr. Almada explained in Buenos Aires on March 24, 2006 and again a few days ago: The Condor keeps flying - although nowadays in the hands of the Conference of American Armies (CEA), which is about to create a database on opponents of all Latin America. The archives confiscated in 2002 prove these developments. And in Argentine, only a few days before the 30th anniversary of the military coup, it came out that the secret service of the Navy kept spying even on the actual government.
In that sense the award for Dr. Martin Almada will be a contribution not only to confirm the legitimate demand for Memory, Truth and Justice , but also for the ¡Nunca mas!  the Never again!  which democratic movements and human rights activists keep constantly claiming while constructing a different future for Latin America.

With our best regards,
Knut Rauchfuss

Vita of Dr. Martin Almada and publications by and about him