Argentina: Human Rights / European Hypocrisy
” …. According to the jurisprudence setting the framework for crimes against humanity—the Nuremberg trials—every individual also has a personal responsibility and cannot defend his actions by alleging these were ordered by superiors. If an order runs against universally accepted, elementary human rights, one has a higher duty not to obey it. … “
Human Rights in Argentina and European Hypocrisy … On Tuesday, September 22, as he was getting ready to enter the cockpit of his Transavia plane to fly back from Valencia to Holland, Argentinian-Dutch pilot Julio Poch was arrested by Spanish police. The arrest was made upon the request of the Argentinian government. It wanted to put Poch on trial for his part in the brutal repression of dissenters and opponents of the military junta—led by General Jorge Videla—that came to power through a coup-d’etat in 1976. According to his personal page on Linkedin, in 1988, a mere five years after the military junta was forced out of power by its pathetic mismanagement of the economy and the lost Malvinas/Falklands War against Britain, Poch joined Transavia as a pilot. Transavia must have been glad to hire this experienced pilot.
Flying Dutch-made Fokker aircraft, Poch had participated in the systematic liquidation of untold numbers of defenseless prisoners, who were brought on board drugged and handcuffed and then flown to the icy waters of the South Atlantic to be pushed out. It is estimated some 4.500 people were killed in this fashion.
Argentina is unique in prosecuting not only the junta members responsible for the savage violations of human rights and the torture and killing of thousands of fellow-citizens. It is also making efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators at the lower echelons. After all, according to the jurisprudence setting the framework for crimes against humanity—the Nuremberg trials—every individual also has a personal responsibility and cannot defend his actions by alleging these were ordered by superiors. If an order runs against universally accepted, elementary human rights, one has a higher duty not to obey it. If former SS men like Klaus Barbie and Erich Priebke could not hide behind the argument of having to carry out orders and neither will Julio Poch.
If Poch is tried and found guilty of the charges brought against him, he will follow several other former officers of lesser rank that have been put behind bars in Argentina.
So far some factual dimensions of the Poch case. Its wider significance and implications are interesting to say the least and also have a twist of irony.
The Dutch, like the champions of hypocrisy they have always been, have been playing a dubious role in the Poch case. First they let him into the country and give him a nice job and a passport. Then, according to Argentinian news sources, the Dutch foreign minister—a man who deserves to be tried for his share in the NATO war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq—helps extradite Poch to Argentina. Spain’s role is hardly less devoid of hypocrisy, as befits a country that has been so long in the clutches of the most fanatical and backward outgrowths of Roman Catholicism.
Nevertheless, the European media do not seem to understand the significance of the Poch case and others like it. That is understandable. To even pause and reflect on it for a minute would lead one to ask uncomfortable questions about Europe’s current involvement in the truly massive human rights violations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. The media and the public prefer to look the other way and think of something else. Just like many Argentinians were doing at the time of the military junta.
However, Argentinians have recognized their error and as of today are still settling accounts with their past. Let us hope one day Europeans will be able to follow their admirable example. By Hans Vogel …