The Inter-American Human Rights Commission presented President Jorge Videla with a list of preliminary recommendations today designed to improve the human rights situation here.
Commission President Andres Aguilar of Venezuela said the recommendations required the government's "quickest attention." He said the "urgent and important" recommendations would remain confidential.
It was understood from sources close to the five commission members that they were so shocked by the situation here that they felt they could not leave the country without recommendating specific and immediate changes to the government.
The commission also announced today that it had received a promise from the government that it would not take reprisals against the thousands of citizens who testified about human rights violations before the commission during its two-week visit here, which ended this afternoon.
Among those with whom the commission met was Jacobo Timerman, the Jewish newspaper publisher whose three-year detention without charges has become an internationally renowned case.
Argentina's Supreme Court sent a communique ordering the government to release Timerman earlier this week. But sources close to the newspaper publisher said they feared that the military government will once again ignore court rulings that Timerman is being held unconstitutionally.
In New York, Timerman's wife, Rische, and two of his sons said they expect the publisher to be released. Mrs. Timerman said she received a telephone call from her husband at 6 a.m. today, and he was excited by Buenos Aires newspapers' front-page stories on the court decision. If he is freed, Timerman plans to go to Israel, his wife said.
The newspaper publisher was kidnaped by Argentine security forces in 1976, tortured and finally released from prison and placed under house arrest last year.
His case has become a symbol of the military's three-year-long so-called "dirty war" against terrorism and subversion, which has left thousands here in jail with charges, "missing" or dead.
Aguilar said today that the commission, whose members are chosen by governments belonging to the Organization of American States, will prepare a report on the human rights situation in Argentina based on the group's two-week inspection.
While the commission's findings will have both domestic and international repercussions, many observers here believe that the commission's mere presence in Argentina had an extremely significant effect because it focused public attention and generated public debate on a topic that until now had been largely taboo.
For the first time since the military came to power in March 1976, and began its no-holds-barred effort to defeat urban guerrilla groups and round up "intellectual subversives," the methods that have been used and the "excesses" the government has said it committed -- although it has not admitted responsibility for any of those who have disappeared -- became the subject of national discussion and debate.
Because the commission was invited here by the government, its activities were given full coverage by Argentina's carefully monitored press. Everyday for two weeks, human rights was front-page news as commission members visited prisons, spoke with families of those who have disappeared, and met with leaders of the country's political parties (now in recess), intellectuals, torture victims, church leaders, government ministers and human rights activists.
Besides the newspaper, radio and television reports, every major newspaper in Buenos Aires carried paid advertisements almost daily either implicitly charging the government with responsibility for the estimated 8,000 to 20,000 Argentines who have disappeared since 1976 or implicitly defending the "dirty war," regardless of what methods may have been used to defeat the guerrillas.
Meanwhile, Argentina's political parties took advantage of the invitations extended to them by the human rights commission to record publicly their views on the government's respect for human rights. The largest and most important of these parties, the Peronist-dominated Justicialist Party delivered a statement that many observers here see as a virtual declaration of war on the current military government.
"The beneficiaries of the present situation are, and will be, our eternal enemies," said the statement, read by Peronist leader Deolindo Bittel. "We cannot accept that the battle against a terrorist minority, of whom we have also been victims, be turned into an excuse to implant state terrorism."
The government, which seldom answers its critics directly, issued a public rebuttal of Bittel's statement.
"Those who sowed chaos now want judicial order," the statement said," forgetting that when they were in power they denied their enemies justice and abetted, sheltered and applauded 'special formations' and freed terrorist criminals that had been jailed."
Under Argentina's last elected governments -- the Peronist-oriented administration, in power from May 1973 to March 1976 rightwing para-military groups linked to former social welfare minister Joe Lopez Rega and leftwing guerrilla groups with some ties to the Peronists carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnapings and other human rights abuses that plunged Argentina into almost total disorder.