Last week, Macri’s Foreign Ministry presented the candidacy of the eminent lawyer Carlos Horacio de Casas for the Argentine commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) before the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OEA).
However, since the news broke this weekend, there has been some serious backlash both on social media and from within the Government. Representatives of the Victory Front-PJ (FpV-PJ) caucus have presented a declaration of repudiation in Congress and before the OEA. In addition, human rights officials from fourteen provinces are collaborating to pressure the national government to withdraw the lawyer’s candidacy.
So, why have so many come out against De Casas? One of the main reasons: the lawyer from Mendoza represented Enrique Blas Gómez Saa, repressor and former Deputy Chief of Intelligence for the VIII Brigada de Infantería de Montaña, in a case regarding kidnappings and torture committed against three victims between 1976 and 1978, during the last military dictatorship.
The trial was meant to start in November 2013, but De Casas avoided having to go to court – the accused was granted legal immunity due to “mental incapacity.”
Pablo Salinas, the prosecution’s lawyer for that case and for 240 other cases of crimes against humanity, has spoken in support of the man who was once his opposition: “He was an upright lawyer, he defended properly and not like lawyers in other cases I have had, where they actually defended the dictatorship.” He added that De Casas did not take on other examples of these cases, “he is not a regular defender of repressors.”
Ignacio de Casas, the nominee’s son, has also come out in defense of the appointment. Praising his father as his own inspiration to follow a career in the legal world, he wrote on social media: “Unfortunately, a few voices have spread untruths, which are now being circulated, and that only seek to tarnish and discredit; perhaps because they themselves have experienced missing out on a position that they had longed for. You will notice the political intentionality that is at play here – attacking a government, without stopping to see if they are sullying a name, without any interest in the truth.”
On the other hand, in the statement presented to the government and the OEA, FpV-PJ claimed that the lawyer does not meet the requirements of holding “high moral ground and recognized competence in the field of human rights,” and recalled the lawyer’s role in defending Gómez Saa: “during his activity as a litigator, he refuted the fact that crimes against humanity are not reached by the statute of limitations.”
Yesterday, numerous human rights NGOs, including the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Línea Fundadora, Hijos Capital, Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas, the CELS, the Liga Argentina por los Derechos Humanos, the APDH, the MEDH and the Comisión Memoria, Verdad y Justicia Zona Norte, held a meeting to decide on the formal steps they will be taking to oppose the nomination. Their statement focuses on the fact that De Casas, a member of Opus Dei, has had no other experience linked to human rights in his legal career, besides the Gómez Saa case.
Talking to Página12, Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel explained his reservations surrounding the appointment: “I think this nomination is part of something bigger. It’s not an isolated incident. There is a whole government policy aimed at minimizing and demolishing [Argentina’s] entire human rights policy.” He added, “they have put democratic stability at risk.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has so far refused to comment or respond to queries on the subject.