The Argentinian justice formally recognized, Thursday, the ” responsibility “ of the State in the massacre of more than 400 natives, almost a century ago, in a reserve of Chaco (North), during a “truth trial” unpublished which recommended remedial measures.
In this case, the court established that “on the morning of Saturday July 19, 1924, a hundred policemen, gendarmes and a few armed civilians, supported by an airplane, arrived in the area of the reserve where a thousand people, Qom and Mocoit families, and agricultural workers were carrying out a strike ” to protest against their deplorable working conditions in the cotton fields. This armed crew opened fire for over an hour and “between 400 and 500 members of the Qom and Mocoit ethnic groups died (…)the wounded who could not escape were killed in the most cruel way possible”with mutilations, burials in mass graves.
For what is known as “the Napalpi massacre”, the memory of which has reemerged for fifteen years after a long invisibility, judge Zunilda Niremperger presiding over the court ordered “historic remedial measures”. Among these, the publication of the verdict in Official newspaper, the inclusion of the massacre in school curricula, the broadcasting of the trial on public television, the continuation of forensic research to exhume and hand over the remains of the victims. A memorial had already been erected in 2020.
A first in Argentina
The theme of economic compensation was neither an issue nor a request during the debates, even if the judgment in theory could open the way to civil proceedings. The trial of Napalpi, of great symbolic value, without “accused” as such, is nevertheless a first in the country, and the marker of an increased visibility of the crimes perpetrated against the indigenous peoples during the construction of Argentina as a nation throughout the 19and century and beyond.
The Province of Chaco (which did not exist at the material time), the Human Rights Secretariat (governmental) and the Institute of the Aborigine Chaqueño were co-complainants in the proceedings. Judge Niremperger warned from the outset that the trial “was not looking for criminal responsibility, but to know the truth, in order to rehabilitate the memory of peoples, heal wounds, repair and also activate the memory and awareness of these human rights violations”.
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