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IKOHI

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo President Speech in UN HRC

Address of Marta Ocampo de Vasquez to the UN Human Rights Council
June 22, 2006 in Geneva


Your Excellencies Mr President, Madame High Commissioner, distinguished Delegates, friends and NGO colleagues.

I am still asking myself why am I here before you today ....

And that question has brought me to reflect on the last thirty years of my family life, overshadowed during the Argentine Military Dictatorship(1976-83) with the abduction and enforced disappearance of my daughter, Maria Marta, together with her husband Cesar, an event which took place on that evil night of May 14th 1976. They were taken away from us and never again could we know of them as with many other thousands of victims. They were entered into a tunnel of darkness out of which they could never return.

With my husband, an Argentine diplomat, we began our search believing and hoping most innocently for their quick return. It was the love for my daughter that impelled me into this struggle and it was that which has guided and sustained me during these long thirty years which I have travelled in the defense of human rights.

In May 1977 I joined the fledging movement of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, then sarcastically called the `Mad Women’ by the authorities. Together with those fellow women I began a learning process. I began to realize that I was not only searching for my own daughter and son-in-law, but for all the disappeared sons and daughters of Argentina, and of Latin America, and today for all the Desaparecidos around the world.

When I discovered that my daughter had been pregnant when taken, I joined the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and began to learn of another most painful and harsh experience, the search for my grand child whom I have not yet been able to locate.

I have participated in many activities for the disappeared both in Argentina and in other countries. I represented the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo at the First Congress of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees - FEDEFAM - held in Costa Rica in January 1981.

I was present at the Paris Colloquium in 1981. Many images from then are recorded forever in me and what I experienced then has been fulfilling itself on the long road I have travelled. And that has led me to new and enriching experiences.

On many occasions I have assisted meetings of the UN Commission on Human Rights. In 1999 I was elected president of FEDEFAM a position I held until November 2003. I participated as FEDEFAM delegate in the Open Ended Intersessional Working Group entrusted with drafting a binding legal instrument for the protection of all persons against Enforced Disappearances, and convened by the UN in Geneva.

Currently I am President of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Founders Line) Association.

Last September 2005 the Sixth Meeting of the Intersessional Working Group, under the wise and
skillful leadership of Ambassador Kessejian, approved by consensus the draft of an International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances. That was an occasion for much celebration and hope for all of the NGOs present and above all for the representatives of FEDEFAM who had firmly defended and presented the opinions and objectives of the 18 associations of families who are members of the Federation. Personally I felt I had been able to faithfully transmit the position of mothers, grandmothers and family members from Argentina.

However, distinguished delegates, we flag you to say our struggle still goes on ..until the draft Convention be approved by the General Assembly. We will always continue to defend human rights.

Mr. Chairperson

Impunity has been the hallmark characteristic of the practice of enforced disappearances . And that is why NGOS require the full application of justice in every country affected. It is why we are concerned about the way the international law for the protection of human rights is excercised and respected, and on the creation of legal mechanisms which set out sanctions and impede the perpetration of this crime against humanity.

I want to share with you the great importance which families and NGOs attach to an International Convention against Enforced Disappearances. We have been able to advance in this process by understanding the gravity of its violation of several fundamental rights, above all the rights to life, security, integrity, the recognition of a legal personality, the right to freedom and not to be submitted to torture or to cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment.

We are non governmental associations, autonomous and independent from all political or religious institutions. We are inspired in the profound democratic vocation of our peoples, and in the principles and rights enshrined in the International Charter of Human Rights and the Interamerican Convention of Human Rights.

Our associations have been born out of the pressing need experienced in countries where the crimes of enforced disappearances have been perpetrated. We felt the need to unite our efforts to try to recover alive those detained and disappeared, to achieve justice for the victims of this crime against humanity, and to put an end to this scourge of humanity which was initiated in the American Continent by military dictatorships, but which today has spread to all regions of the world. The legal, political, cultural and psycho-social consequences of this crime continue to profoundly affect our societies, and will continue to do so for many generations to come.

I would like you to know that after the occurrence of the detention and disappearance of a loved one, we came to the painful conclusion that there were no answers to be found. No recourse existed nor was the Habeas Corpus writ or judiciary protection orders valid. It was then in our despair that we reached out to the international community but only to discover that no suitable instruments existed there. That is why we are here once again, Mr. President, requesting you and the distinguished delegates of the Human Rights Council to finally approve the Convention. We have travelled a long road with both achievements and disillusionments but today we turn to all of you in order that in our world there be no more victims of the crime against humanity of Enforced Disappearances.

The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances, adopted by the General Assembly in 1992, is very clear when it says: �Enforced Disappearances affect the most basic values of every society respectful of the primacy of human rights and fundamental freedoms.� And it further adds that �Its systematic practice represents a crime against humanity.�

The families of the desaparecidos never have accepted vengance nor violence but have always propiciated peace, truth and justice. In your hands lies the responsibility that finally we may be able to affirm that there will be no more victims of enforced disappearances in the world!

In all my long endeavours I, together with my companions, have always been against all violence and have never asked for vengance. If we defend the historical memory of our peoples it is because events of such collective import have happened that we should always hold them present as they mould our national identity. There are ways to maintain memory of the past alive so that every �Desaparecido� and each victim will know that their passage through life did not go unknown, nor was it all in vain, and that his or her ideals will slowly become reality. Recalling these events then help us to maintain memory alive, and to understand that we cannot leave forgotten in the pithole of oblivion heinous crimes committed against thousands and thousands of victims.

I want to be very clear when I say that in order to prevent inhuman and immoral techniques of violations to civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights we must say a clear NO to impunity.

The families of the desaparecidos have never accepted vengance nor violence but have always propiciated peace, truth and justice. In your hands lies the responsibility that finally we may be able to say that there will be no more victims of enforced disappearances in the world.

All I can say to you now is that I will always continue my work in the defense of Human Rights and against all violations. I will continue to uphold the ideals and principles which the thirty thousand �Desaparecidos� in Argentina adhered to in order to achieve dignity and general welfare for all people. I hope to always continue in the struggle for Memory, Truth and Justice.

www.madresfundadora.com
madreslf@uolsinectis.com.ar

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IKOHI was set up on September 17, 1998 by the parents and surfaced victims of disappearances. Since then, IKOHI was assisted by KONTRAS, until October 2002 when finally IKOHI carried out it first congress to complete its organizational structure. In the Congress, IKOHI decided its two priority of programs. They are (1) the empowerment of the social, economic, social and cultural potential of the members as well as mental and physical, and (2) the campaign for solving of the cases and preventing the cases from happening again. The solving of the cases means the reveal of the truth, the justice for the perpetrators, the reparation and rehabilitation of the victims and the guarantee that such gross violation of human right will never be repeated again in the future.

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