Corporations supported the Argentinian military dictatorship

The crimes of dictatorships always have an economic dimension and are at least partly driven by financial interests. In our work on Argentina, we aim to bring to justice those economic actors who supported and profited from the crimes of the Argentine military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. We are supporting three cases that are representative of the role played by corporations during the military dictatorship.

Mercedes Benz Argentina

In the Mercedes Benz case ECCHR is assisting relatives of trade unionists who disappeared from a Mercedes Benz plant in Buenos Aires. A senior manager at the company stands accused of involvement in the disappearances and murders of trade union activists carried out by Argentine security forces. The case was investigated in 1999 for German television and radio by journalist Gaby Weber. Criminal proceedings on the matter are ongoing in Argentina and a compensation claim brought by the victims is currently pending in the US.
 
Representing the victims, Wolfgang Kaleck, General Secretary of ECCHR, submitted a criminal complaint in autumn 1999 against a manager at Mercedes Benz Argentina in connection with his role in the disappearance of trade unionists. These proceedings were discontinued by the public prosecution in Nuremberg-Fürth in 2003. An investigation has now been launched into the matter by prosecution authorities in Argentina. In September 2009, ECCHR submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case setting out Argentina’s human rights obligation to investigate corporate involvement in crimes against humanity during the military dictatorship.
 
In 2004, 22 relatives of the disappeared Argentine trade unionists, joined by survivors in the US, filed a lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler AG with US courts. They based their claim on the Alien Torts Claims Act (ATCA), a US statute dating from 1789.  In May 2011 the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena decided that the courts in San Francisco do have jurisdiction in the case. The case was subsequently referred to the US Supreme Court in order to clarify the question of jurisdiction.
 
On 26 August 2013, ECCHR and the German Institute for Human Rights submitted an amicus brief to the Court in support of the petition of the relatives and survivors. The brief, which was drafted in cooperation with international law expert Prof. Dr. Alexander Graser, argues that US courts do have jurisdiction and that Germany would not be a viable forum for the case.
 
The case remains pending and the company is still facing possible court proceedings.

Ledesma sugar company

In April 2011 ECCHR submitted an amicus curiae brief in the criminal investigation in Jujuy, Argentina, examining sugar company Ledesma’s liability for human rights violations during the Argentinian military dictatorship. The submission also points out that the Argentinian judiciary has a responsibility to investigate and prosecute for human rights violations committed by corporate actors during the dictatorship.
 
In spring of 2012, the Federal Court in Jujuy summoned the head of Ledesma, Pedro Blaquier, and former manager, Alberto Lemos, for questioning in May 2012. The summons related in particular to the pair’s suspected involvement in the false imprisonment of victims of the so-called ‘night of the blackout’ in July 1976. On this night approximately 400 people, most of whom were trade unionists and employees of Ledesma, were kidnapped by members of the military. Some of the trucks used in the operation bore the company’s logo. 55 people are still missing

A raid of the company in late April revealed, among other things, intelligence reports compiled for Ledesma on trade unionists who subsequently disappeared. These included reports on former union leader Jorge Osvaldo Weisz, who was detained and disappeared in 1974. These documents represent important evidence for establishing the criminal liability of the company for crimes against humanity.
 
On 13 March 2015, ECCHR presented a request to the Argentinean Supreme Court in the Ledesma case to be incorporated in the Court’s register, with a view to potentially intervening as an amicus curiae at a later stage of the proceedings. The reason for filing this request was the 13 March 2015 decision by the Federal Criminal Cassation Chamber (Cámara Federal de la Casación Penal) in the Ledesma case, reversing the confirmation of the indictment of the two accused, Lemos and Blaquier.

Mining company Minera Aguilar S.A.

On 19 December 2012 ECCHR submitted a legal brief in the case of Bazán, Avelino and others relating to the unlawful detention and torture of 27 workers of the company Minera Aguilar S.A. during the Argentinian military dictatorship (1976-1983). The company’s involvement is indicated by, among other things, the fact that its management provided state security forces with a list of workers who were subsequently arrested and tortured. Company vehicles were also used during the arrests.