Sunday, January 23, 2011

Argentine Torture Survivor Patricia Isasa

From Democracy Now: Argentine Torture Survivor Patricia Isasa Tells of Her Struggle to Bring Her Torturers to Justice

A full transcript of Isasa's 2006 appearance on Democracy Now is available here.  Here's an excerpt, focusing on Isasa's narration of a television documentary on her case:

AMY GOODMAN: One of those who disappeared but lived to tell her story is Patricia Isasa. She was only 16 in 1976, when she was kidnapped by police and soldiers, tortured and held prisoner without trial for two-and-a-half years. One of Patricia’s torturers was Domingo Marcelini. He’s a graduate of the School of the Americas.

A documentary about Patricia’s ordeal and her subsequent investigation to bring her torturers to justice premiered on Argentine television last May. It’s called El Cerco, and it features interviews with some of her torturers, who are now in prison awaiting trial. In the film, Patricia Isasa revisits the sites where she was held, and she describes her torture. This is an excerpt.

PATRICIA ISASA: I arrived here for the first time when I was 16 years old, July 30th at noon. They forced me through this hallway. This place was empty. First, they slammed me against the wall. They dragged me across the floor. They beat me. Then they tied my feet to my hands, which were already handcuffed. I was kept like this for one week. Two men appeared, and one of them told me that I had to talk. He said that the other guy was crazy and that I should talk for my own good. This crazy guy was Eduardo Ramos.

EDUARDO RAMOS: I entered the police force in 1973. While I was working for the police as an analyst, the government was overthrown. My job was to monitor terrorist groups in universities. Some people call it "going undercover."

PATRICIA ISASA: After two days, they took the hood off me. They gave me water, a lemon, and they took me to the bathroom. Then Ramos and the other guy came back playing good cop and bad cop. I was told that Ramos was going to kill me and that I’d better talk.

EDUARDO RAMOS: I was not a typical policeman. I was more of a secret agent than a regular cop.

PATRICIA ISASA: I was thrown here. Ramos gave me a warning. He was insinuating that I would be raped. He said, "Tell me if anyone touches you, because we are the only ones that can touch you." I was 16 years old. I couldn’t believe it. Ramos was telling me, "You are my property. If I want, I can rape you."

Ramos was a spy at this law school. He turned in a lot of students here while pretending he was a law student.

My next step was to reconstruct my captivity at Police Station #4, where I learned what it was like to be tortured. This was a camp for torture and extermination run by Mario Jose Facino in 1976. Over here. This is it. It’s this place and this here. It’s both of these. These are the places where they tortured us. We’re looking at them from the outside, but I’m convinced, I’m telling you.

No, I can’t talk. Look, this is it. This is the place. They were over here. On this floor and at this window. This is where I spent the worst days of my life, simple as that. This was stuck, but I managed to open it. And through here, you could see, as you can now, the school. I could manage to see the school. These cracks—if you excuse me—this was stuck. You couldn’t open it. But to be able to see the school, I could suspect what street I was on and where I was being held. After talking with other detainees, we figured out that we were being held at Police Station #4.

I never thought that I would be standing in front of the bench that I was locked to. It’s incredible. 20, 25 years have passed. The bench that I was locked to when I was 16 is still here, same as ever. No one came to look at this place. There’s a case in Spain, a case in Argentina, and a case in Santa Fe fifteen blocks away from here, and no one was capable of coming over to look at this. I have to be the one to show it to you.

This is where I had to force myself not to use the bathroom. I was sent to an absolutely filthy room to pee. This was the only place where you could drink a little bit of water, and it’s all still here. Everything is still here, because no one has been held accountable.

And there, you could clearly see the cells. They were three feet by four feet. You couldn’t even lay down inside the cell. This was the central area where they tortured us. In 1976, the man responsible for the torture was Facino.

MARIO FACINO: I was not involved in any repressive group or anything like that. I was the supervisor of Police Station #4 in Santa Fe. I had an important job. My job was to detain people, who at that time were called subversives. Subversive delinquents.

PATRICIA ISASA: They put a hood on my head and tied my wrists to a rickety old bed. First, I remember feeling something cold on my stomach, and then I felt it. I felt the first electric shock. You feel this burning pain. It’s a horrible thing. They also humiliated me. They were laughing at me. They ejaculated onto me. They were enjoying themselves.

MARIO FACINO: She says they tortured her there. She says that they would lift off her hood and rape her. I doubt all of it.

PATRICIA ISASA: I recognize this place. This is it. I won’t ever forget it. I mean, this was the floor, I’m totally sure. And I was here three days. The worst three days of my life.

MARIO FACINO: A minor detained for subversive activities. No, no. It’s a lie. The woman, Patricia Isasa, says that the police detained her and she knows who detained her and where. Why she says it was at Police Station #4, I don’t know. I honestly don’t. But I can’t recall whether we detained her or not. But if we look at her records, it has to be recorded, where she was detained, when she was detained, and who detained her.

VICTOR BRUSA: I started working at the federal court as a student. When the government was overthrown, I was an employee of the court. I was 27, 28 years old. As a secretary for the judge, I would take statements in the office of the police station. The head of the police station had us take statements. Nothing more!

PATRICIA ISASA: They would hit you. They would torture you. They would hound you. Then they would pick you up and open this door for you. You would go through this door. And whom would you find on the other side? Brusa. This man was on the other side of the door. He would be writing, and he would take out a sheet of paper. You would be all beaten up, bleeding, naked. He’d throw you some clothes, and then he’d say, "Here, sign this." Brusa!

The Victor Brusa referred to above went on from working in the torture chambers of the Argentine Dirty War  to serving as a federal judge.  In 2009, Brusa was convicted of crimes against humanity for his role in the campaign of abduction, torture of killing.  His conviction came largely on the brave testimony of Silvia Suppo, who, like Patricia Isasa, was just a teenager when Argentine police abducted her, tortured and raped her, and held her for years without charges.  (Read here.)  In March, 2010, Silvia Suppo was brutally murdered in her crafts shop located in Rafaela, an area where violent crimes are extremely rare.  A subsequent official inquiry ruled that the motive for Suppo's murder was robbery, although the facts that Suppo was stabbed 12 times, that her wounds were deep and intended to kill her, and that there is no evidence that any property was taken, have called the soundness of this ruling into question.  Since Suppo's murder, defendants connected to Dirty War atrocities have threatened other witnesses that they would meet Suppo's fate.  Some of these threats have even occurred in the very courtrooms where these cases are being heard.  (Read here.)

Marie Trigona's report on this for CIP Americas is available here.

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