WITH THE DIMISE of Idi Amin in Uganda, the government of President Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina may well qualify as the bloodiest in the world. There is no small amount of competition in this grim sweepstakes, and it is hard to pin down the statistics that allow a fair ranking. But a committee of the Bar of the City of New York, made up of impeccably disinterested lawyers and including a former federal judge, visited Buenos Aires and has just published a report that would seem to give Argentina the current title. The report notes accounts of thousands of current detentions, and of the inhuman treatment of prisoners, and it credits tallies listing "at the least 10,000" Argentina citizens as having "disappeared" since the Videla government came to power in 1976. That government did not flatly acknowledge the disappearances to the Bar group. Nor did it deny them. It said none of the disappeared is alive.
A footnote says: "Although the rate of disappearances has declined since January 1979, they still occur. The U.S. Embassy recorded 13 disappearances from January through March, although four of those individuals have since reappeared. We have been advised that at least two disappearances occurred since the mission's return to the United States on April 8, 1979. One of these was a leading member of the [Families of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons], one of the human-rights groups with whom we met during our stay in Buenos Aires."
The Videla regime originally undertook to fight a "dirty war" against a very real threat of terrorism. When it won, it kept fighting in full frenzy, finding "subversives" everywhere. With most of the country's judicial community either convinced or intimidated, the armed forces, police and well-known vigilante groups forced the pace. "The main point," the Bar group of the disappeared is enormously 'complicated' and not likely to be resolved in the near the difficulties of finding the facts, we were led to infer that the more troublesome dilemma is the prospect of imagining how to disclose the horrors concealed in the untold stories of the desparecidos , and how to absolve the subordinate officers directly responsible for those horrors." Maybe it can't be done.