Germany must not be a safe haven for those who commit dictatorship crimes. The former Argentine military officer Luis K is wanted in Argentina for his involvement in crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorship (1976-83). As a German citizen, he cannot be extradited. However, the German judiciary may well investigate and prosecute him.
With ECCHR’s support, the sister of one of the thousands of disappeared people filed a criminal complaint with the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office in June 2018. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has already begun investigations. By indicting Luis K, Germany would signal – especially to victims and survivors – that Germany and Europe are not safe havens for those responsible for crimes against humanity and contribute to the Argentinean judiciary’s immense efforts over the past decade to prosecute dictatorship crimes.
Luis K was deputy commander of a naval unit in Mar del Plata, from at least February to November 1976. This unit was demonstrably involved in international crimes after a military coup brought dictator Rafael Videla to power. After being “disappeared,” political opponents were tortured, sexually abused and killed on the naval base. In 2013, Luis K was supposed to testify in a criminal case in Mar del Plata. Instead, he fled to Germany. He has lived undisturbed in Berlin ever since.
ECCHR supports the sister of Omar Marocchi, a young man presumably killed at the Mar del Plata naval base in 1976. His case is part of a wider fight against impunity by those affected, human rights activists and lawyers. Marocchi’s “disappearance” is not an isolated case. Tens of thousands of political opponents were kidnapped under Videla.
The German justice system can play an important role in addressing these crimes. That international crimes are committed in other parts of the world – in some cases decades ago – is no excuse to let perpetrators living in Germany go free. Luis K’s German citizenship must not protect him from prosecution.
ECCHR’s work on the Luis K case is part of a series of legal interventions on the Argentine military dictatorship. Economic actors’ responsibility is a particular focus. Transnational companies such as Mercedes Benz played an important role in crimes committed during the dictatorship, for example by supporting the disappearances of trade unionists. Wolfgang Kaleck, founder and genereral secretary of ECCHR, represented a number of survivors in cases in Germany that led to an arrest warrant against Rafael Videla, former Argetine dictator, in 2003.
In addition to Argentina, ECCHR has worked on crimes committed during the military dictatorships in Brazil and Chile for many years. All of these cases have a direct connection to Germany – either involving German companies (such as Volkswagen in Brazil), or the accused evading justice by fleeing to Germany (as in Chile’s Colonia Dignidad case).