IALL Program Recap: The Destruction of Literature and Librarians in Argentina during the Dictatorship

By Jim Hart

RJ-Book-BurningThis session discussed the organized program by the military junta in Argentina to burn “subversive literature.” The first speaker, Federico Zeballos, had copies of government resolutions ordering the destruction of various titles. These books came from all kinds of libraries, academic, public, school, and even private. Indeed, having heard about the book burning, some people even chose to burn their own books in their backyards, knowing that their homes were not safe from government searches.

The next speaker, Maria Rondine, focused on children’s books and their authors. The government believed that these books would fill children’s heads with communist ideology. This showed how terrified the dictators must have been about their own legitimacy. These books were not only like those that many of us read to our children; they were the same ones!

The last speaker, Alejandra Nardi, told us of the 25 librarians who disappeared as the result of the book burning. She had photos and biographical information on many of them, and showed us a poignant film about the disappearances. It is not an exaggeration to say that everyone was profoundly affected by this presentation. For there but for the grace of God went each one of us.

IALL Program Recap: The Struggle for Human Rights in Argentina

By Jim Hart

This presentation described how individual Argentinians and international organizations worked together to expose the dictators’ crimes against humanity. Essentially, individuals made the international organizations aware of specific crimes. The international organizations then made them public, thus harnessing the power of shame and public opinion outside of Argentina. Cases were brought in international human rights courts and tribunals. Those inside Argentina were then able to bring pressure in the domestic courts and Congress. Eventually, Argentina gave international human rights treaties constitutional status.

Just as developed countries once practiced slavery and then rejected it, perhaps they have now rejected the practice of crimes against humanity.


IALL 2014 Annual Course Part I: Gender & Human Rights

By Charles Bjork

1450119_10100475958347527_6708231589772581974_nIALL’s 33rd annual course on international law and legal information in Buenos Aires got underway with three informative presentations focusing on Gender and Human Rights in Latin America.

The first speaker was Analia Montferrant, an attorney in the Office of Domestic Violence of the Supreme Court of Argentina. The Supreme Court established the Office, known by its Spanish acronym OVD, in 2004 to address the widespread under-reporting of domestic violence in Argentina. The role of the OVD is comparable to that of EEOC in American employment discrimination law.   After verifying an accusation of domestic violence, the OVD’s team of lawyers, psychologists, and social workers makes an initial determination as to whether legal intervention is warranted and then refers the case to the appropriate civil or criminal authorities for prosecution.

Since it became operational in 2008, the OVD has evaluated approximately 60,000 accusations of domestic violence involving more than 80,000 affected persons. Approximately two-thirds of the affected persons are women, one quarter are children, and the remainder are men, primarily elderly men abused by their adult children. The statistics compiled by the OVD help to guide the development of public policies to combat domestic violence. Among the key findings is fact that domestic violence is not confined to working class households but affect persons of all socio-economic backgrounds.

The next speaker was Paola Bergalla, a member of the law faculty at the Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires. Professor Bergalla began with brief overview of disputes concerning reproductive rights that have arisen in Latin America during the past 35 years, including assisted reproductive technology, emergency contraception, and abortion. She went on to discuss the impact of Artavia Murillo v. Costa Rica, a case in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Costa Rica’s absolute ban on in-vitro fertilization (IVF) was in breach of the American Convention on Human Rights. In doing so, the Court applied a proportionality test to balance the rights of infertile couples who want to become parents against the right to life of embryos created via IVF. The Court ultimately concluded that an embryo does not attain the legal status of a person until it is implanted in the womb of the prospective mother. National courts in a several Latin American jurisdictions have begun to cite the decision in the Artavia Murillo case, particularly for its proportionality test and for its treatment of infertility as a disability. Prof. Bergalla concluded her presentation with a summary of the evolution of abortion law in Argentina.

The final speaker was Natalia Gherardi, an attorney with the Latin American Team for Gender Justice, known by its Spanish acronym ELA. She spoke about her organization’s efforts to help bridge the gap between laws on the books designed to promote gender equality and how those laws are applied in practice. In 2009, ELA established a judicial “observatory” to evaluate decisions issued by national courts in Latin America pertaining to the rights of women. The ELA posts each decision on its website in PDF format, along with a brief analysis of the outcome. In addition, the ELA grades each decision based on the extent to which the author(s) of the decision employ gender stereotypes. Decisions that rely on gender stereotypes receive one or more thumbs down, while decisions that eschew gender stereotypes receive one or more thumbs up. The twin goals of the ELA’s judicial observatory are to promote greater understanding of how courts in Latin America resolve disputes concerning the rights of women and to make these decisions more accessible to the public.

IALL Opening Session Recap

By Jim Hart

On Sunday afternoon the National Library of Argentina hosted the opening session of the IALL Conference in the Luis Vargas Auditorium. Jeroen Vervliet, the IALL President, presided over the program that featured Horacio Gonzales, the Library Director, Elisa Barber, the Associate Director, and Professor Lucas Grossman of the University of San Andreas Law Faculty. Dr. Gonzales gave an interesting description of the founding of the Library by Mariano Moreno. Next, Ms. Barber spoke of the importance of the work we do and her pleasure at hosting our conference.

Professor Grossman gave us a scholarly overview of the Argentine legal system, which is a combination of civil and common law systems. Although the Argentine Constitution is modeled on the American one, procedural law is promulgated by the states. The federal government consists of a strong president, a Congress with a House of Representatives and a Senate, and a judiciary with some independence.

This was followed by a tour of some of the Library’s most prized rare books and the Library’s reading rooms and a delightful reception.

The day was topped off by a tour of the lights of Buenos Aires and a good night’s sleep.


Getting To Know You, Buenos Aires

By Jim Hart

Buenos Aires seems to contain all the other cities of the world. It has the barrios of east LA, the gardens of Osaka, the docks of London, the architecture of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, and the skyscrapers of New York, while the countryside around it reminds one of the steppes of central Asia. A tour of the city shows why it is called the Paris of the South. The Ricoleta district was features mansions and palaces of the 19th century French style. Nearby is the serene Japanese garden. The Avenue of the 9th of July is a 460 ft. wide, 12 lane boulevard where the obelisk that celebrates the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding stands.

But the culture of the tango and the beef of the Pampas are ubiquitous. The tango began in the barrios, was rejected by high society, charmed wealthy Parisians, and returned to the embrace of the creme de la creme of Agentine society. Now tourists are encouraged to try it in local clubs.

When you go out to eat, no one will force you to eat meat, but the fragrance will entrance you. Not all of it is beef, but it is all tender and juicy.

Whenever we walked to a cafe or sat down for coffee, we saw friends and colleagues.

Conference; what conference?   I hear it begins this afternoon.