The Story of an Atrocity
By Fabian Kussman
Unfounded accusations, obstructions to a fair defense, violation of rights, are some of the aberrations an innocent man is subject to in Argentina.
Claudio Alejandro Kussman worked in the Police force of the Province of Buenos Aires for 31 years during which his service record was impeccable. His operational work, specially as a policeman on the streets, had to deal with pimps, illegal gamblers, drugs, thefts and murders.
In the year 2011, a newspaper article named accused him of being involved in illegal arrests.
In the article, a name is mentioned and the journalist, without further investigation or confirmation assumed the person was Kussman. Mr. Kussman, thinking that is was only a mistake, appeared before the court of his own accord and provided his identity, his address and his contact details, placing himself at the court’s disposal in case any doubt persisted. In November, 2014, Airport Security Police officers appeared at his home with an order for his arrest (where his address and all his information details were mistaken) and he was taken to a detention center where he stayed for 18 days until he was asked to give a statement, without a judge or even a district attorney present. Mr. Kussman declared he wished to give a statement. He was told that he was accused of having been part of a conspiracy to carry out a criminal clandestine plan aimed at abducting, torturing, murdering people, and making them disappear, using the Armed Forces organic structure and the federal and provincial police forces depending on them to do it.
Five persons declare to have been abducted and tortured by police and military forces.
Five persons claim that they were the victims of abduction and torture. As stated on File 1500000/2007 of the National Judicial Power, only one of them claims to have been abducted in Bahía Blanca by Radio Patrol Unit personnel of that city, among whom he recognized Kussman. However, his successive statements, on which the district attorney based his acceptance of the accusation, contradicts the time, place and manner of detention as he claims it happened.
The first of them is a statement taken in October, 2009, by another administrative official, ABEL CORDOBA, esq., who did not have that statement ratified as mandatory, and is registered on pages 19351/ 19358. More relevant still is the statement given before the Oral Federal Court, for it was given before the parties at the adversarial proceeding. In this statement he does not mention Kussman but another name, Bluma, whose second name is similar to Truman, an official at the Radio Patrol Unit. Detention places do not match, nor do stated dates.
The alleged victim claims Kussman belonges to the mentioned unit. However, Kussman’s file registers that he belonged to the 5th Regional Unit staff instead. The accuser means to install the idea in the court case of there being a task force acting within the Radio Patrol Unit, in line with an Appeals Court ruling which mentioned that in this Unit there was a group working for LCS (Spanish acronym, “Fight against Subversion”) but disregarding the fact that Kussman was not a Radio Patrol officer. Instead of basing his statement on the law, he uses sensationalist arguments which should not be taken seriously. He does not mention any document, as the Placintara (the Argentine Navy Internal Commotion Plan) or the O/E 1/75 document (the National Defence Committee Order No. 1/75), that states the existance of those groups. Besides, he puts KUSSMAN operating within the PUNTA ALTA precint jurisdiction.
The evidence consists in the witness statements of the so-called victims, statements to which Mr. Kussman was not given access. The evidence appears unarguable to Argentine justice, though not to the Law that we all claim to respect and abide by. (Refer to the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 6.2, and the Supreme Court ruling No.312, page 540).
Néstor Oscar Bertinat:
Mr. Bertinat’s witness statement was presented as evidence, on pages 23,851 to 23.853, and a copy of the Provincial Memorial Commission (Comisión Provincial por la Memoria), on pages 25,458 to 25,481 of the case file. Mr.Bertinat is a citizen with an obscure past, (refer to Bertinat, Robbery Indictment, Judiciary of the Province of Buenos Aires, Case File 2212, Ruling Book No. 11), which proves nothing, I agree, but speaks of the person’s character. Additionally, Néstor Oscar Bertinat was involved in an unscrupulous affair of industrial espionage in 1986 (the purchase of client lists from Coca Cola Bahía Blanca for the use of Pepsi Bahía Blanca). He was also prosecuted as a con artist, for making fake sales of State land, passing them as private properties, to underprivileged people.
A few slip-ups in life may be understandable, but when it comes to his word against Mr. Kussman’s, this criminal record should be taken into consideration. Mr. Bertinat must have had some other trouble with the law and, vindictively, he took it out on Mr. Kussman, with court and monetary costs paid by the Argentine people.
Pedro Roberto Miramonte:
In 2009, Mr. Miramonte declared before a district attorney that in March, 1976, he was abducted by Radio Patrol officers, among whom he recognized Mr. Kussman as the officer in charge of the Unit, a unit where Mr. Kussman never served. Later, in 2011, he appeared before the full court over the Bayon Hearing, and stated that he was arrested by officer Bluma, repeating three times the name without anyone cross-questioning him about it. (“Who is Bluma? A new officer? Would you please repeat the name?”). Among the great many contradictions present in his statements, one stands out. On August 14th, 2011, Mr. Miramonte appeared before the Oral Court and on page 4 of his statement his personal effects were allegedly confiscated at the Army facilities, and never returned. However, on page 11, he claims that this happened at the Radio Patrol Unit facilities. Other contradictions are that he mentions a Mr. Bluma instead of Mr. Kussman; the episode happened in Punta Alta, then in Bahía Blanca; that Bluma was among the officers who arrested him, and then at the Radio Patrol Unit facility where he recognized him. Mr. Miramonte seems a good person, and my purpose is not to discredit his having been tortured, but his statements vary constantly. Furthermore, Mr. Miramonte was involved in a series of public confrontations with a Bahía Blanca police commissioner named Triventi, which gained considerable local notoriety, even on television.
Julio Alberto Berardi:
On the summaries of file No. 1500000/2007 of the Secretary for Human Rights of the National Judiciary, Mr. Berardi provides an account of his arrest and transfer, executed by officers in an Army vehicle, stating that he was held at the Radio Patrol Unit and other police units. At one such unit he was informed that he was at the disposal of a commissioner by the name of Armesto, without the name Kussman being mentioned.
Miguel Ángel Ortega y Daniel Salvador Sánchez:
According to the summaries of file No. 1500000/2007, at the time both these men were high school students and more than 18 years old. They were arrested on two occasions. The first, in 1975, they were detained some two hours, interrogated by a police officer named Trujillo and set free. In the middle of February, 1977, they were arrested at their homes, taken to a detention center and tortured. Mr. Kussman is not mentioned in the case file.
Questions and Answers
What is Mr. Claudio Kussman charged with?
Conspiracy to carry out a criminal plan aimed at abducting, torturing and murdering people.
How does Mr. Kussman hear of the accusation against him?
Through the internet, in the year 2011. On learning about the shocking, incredible and false charges, Mr. Kussman appeared before the Bahía Blanca court to state his address and his home and mobile telephones, and placing himself at the disposal of the court to clarify any misunderstanding.
Who accused him?
Néstor Oscar Bertinat, Pedro R. Miramonte, Julio Alberto Berardi, Miguel A. Ortega and Daniel S. Sánchez.
What do the witnesses state?
Neither Mr. Kussman nor his lawyer have been able to read the case file completely or the statements taken since his arrest on November 28th, 2014. In the case summaries, Mr. Pedro Miramonte declares that he saw Mr. Kussman among those who arrested him in Punta Alta. In the following statement, he had seen Mr. Kussman in the Radio Patrol Unit building. In his third, Kussman had been the arresting officer in Bahía Blanca. In the case summaries, no mention of Kussman is made by Messrs. Bertinat, Berardi, Ortega or Sánchez.
Did Mr. Kussman agree to make a statement before the judge?
Yes, absolutely. However, neither the judge nor a district attorney would take his statement, despite the fact that_ surprisingly_ the judge does usually sign these testimonies. His statement was taken by Miss Susana Arrechea. She is registered as Administrative Deputy Clerk of the Argentine National Judiciary, working subject to a contract. Regrettably, Mr. Kussman did not get the opportunity to answer questions, because neither the judge nor the district attorney were present at the time.
Did Mr. Kussman serve at the Radio Patrol Unit in Bahía Blanca?
No, and this is demonstrated by his police records.
When was Mr. Kussman arrested?
On November 28th, 2014, Airport Security Police officers arrived at his home with an illegal arrest warrant (illegal, because its information was mistaken and did not include the elements of the offense). Despite this, Mr. Kussman invited the officers in and offered them beverages and pastries, with no intention of rejecting the warrant only because of its mistakes. He pointed out those mikstakes so that the officers could have them mended by means of a telephone call.
How was Mr. Kussman treated after his arrest?
He had to wait for 18 days in the hope that a judge would take his statement, (which never happened), and after that time, he only managed a clerical employee to do it by videoconference. He was handcuffed and disgracefully paraded around the city airport, and detained for more than 24 hours at the 28th Penitentiary Unit, where the only facility he was allowed to use was a doorless toilet and where he had to sleep among roaches and other unidentifiable insects.
Where Mr. Kussman’s rights violated during these proceedings?
Definitely. A judge and a district attorney have a period of 24 to 48 hours to maximum after an individual’s arrest to make him give a statement. For Mr. Kussman, that period lasted 18 days, which proves that the preumption of innocence, in his case, was disregarded. His right to prepare a fair defense is being violated: he does not know exactly what he is being charged with, he has been denied access to the case file and to the pages where the testimonies of the accusers are registered. Article 18 of the Argentine Constitution states that “National Prisons shall be clean and healthy, for the safety and not for the punishment of the prisoners held in them, and all measures adopted to mortify them under the pretext of taking precautions beyond what such safety requires will render the judge ordering such measures liable for them.” The anecdotes about deplorable facilities, inmates’ having to share their beds with insects, stifling heat and unending trips to make statements are just some examples of the authorities’ inefficiency, carelessness, lack of mercy and an obvious disregard of the laws ruling the system, the people who should respect them the most.
The purpose of correct legal procedure is to ensure that people’s rights are preserved efficiently. In this case, as can be appreciated, without any evidence (moreover, without any conclusive evidence whatsoever), without a fair trial, without Disclosure and with no logic nor critical thinking on the part of the justice officials carrying out this trial, Mr. Kussman remains in prison, which confirms once again that in this totalitarian Argentina, Human Rights exist only for those people in power.
Every individual who has been imprisoned has the right to have the judge verify his idictment as soon as possible and to be tried without reasonable delay, or else be freed. He has a right to a humane treatment for the duration of his confinement, as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man dictates in Chapter 1, Article XXV.
The Kussman case, though not at all infrequent, has some very interesting aspects. A witness claims to have seen him at the Radio Patrol Unit, altough he never served in that division. Very meaningful is the fact that witnesses who claim to have been held at those facilities did not notice the display and the intense operational activity at the Unit, which at the time was profusely decorated with elements of the world of radiotelephony, and where activity was continuous: civil staff like waiters and barbers, civilian and journalits’ constant visits. Besides, there was no pen at the place.
Judges claim that they cannot grant release from prison orders to political prisoners due to the flight risk which a person charged with crimes against humanity poses. Mr. Kussman, when he appeared before the court and placed himself at the disposal of justice, assumed that a charge against him was being fabricated, so he could have fled. However, his innocence and his respect for the law prevented him from doubting a favorable outcome.
Conclusive evidence is required to indict a person, to accuse him of a criminal act. This is obviously not the case in this affair. There is no logic in accepting vague and contradictory testimonies as is that provided by Mr. Miramonte, which are inconsistent regarding time, place and method of what he claims was his arrest.
These proceedings are humiliating and inhuman for a guilty person. What they represent for an innocent man is unimaginable, the anguish, the shame, the impotence of it all. In his quest to spread the truth and make the real information known to the public, Mr. Kussman understands and accepts the inherent risks: being transferred to an even more dreadful penitentiary facility, being charged with new fabricated accusations, being made to wait even longer for justice, or more severe, willful obstructions which, given his age, would be a major setback.