The State Department today criticized Argentine police for seizing files belonging to three private human rights organization offices in Buenos Aires.
The raid marked the second time in five days that Argentine police had confiscated documents and files belonging to human rights groups investigating the disappearance and death of thousands of Argentines alleged to have taken place since a military coup toppled the government of Isabel Peron in 1976.
The documents seized yesterday at the offices of the Argentine League for the Rights of Man, the Ecumencial Movement for Human Rights and the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights were being prepared for presentation to a delegation of the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission scheduled to visit Argentina next month. Police also closed the office of the League for the Rights of Man pending an investigation, league officials said.
Police yesterday seized 15 boxes of documents and files on more than 6,000 missing persons. They are said to have confiscated files on 8,000 missing persons during last Friday's raids.
Spokesman Thomas Reston expressed State Department "surprise" at reports of more police raids, adding that "we hope the Argentine government will take no further actions which might interfere with the (Inter-American Human Rights') Commission's visit."
A spokesman for the Argentine Embassy in Washington said today the State Department failed to make clear in its statement that the police raids were ordered by a federal judge and not directly by the Argentine government.
Judge Martin Anzoategui ordered confiscation of documents belonging to human rights organizations in connection with the trial for perjury of a woman allegedly encouraged by officials of the Argentine Human Rights League to give wrong information to the authorities about the disappearance of her daughter.
"The fact that (our offices have been raided) for a second time gives the impression that we are suffering a formal persecution," said Emilio Mignone, a representative of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.
Yesterday's raid was the first on the offices of the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights, a group with ties to both the Protestant and Catholic Churches.
The Washington-based Inter-American Human Rights Commission is scheduled to visit Argentina Sept. 6-20 to launch the first full-scale investigation of alleged human rights violations in that country since the military seized power three years ago.