The Past and Present of Corporate Complicity: Financing the Argentinean Dictatorship

By Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky and Veerle Opgenhaffen
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From 1976 to 1983, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship whose tactics included the widespread torture, murder, and enforced disappearance of thousands of people. Since the junta’s fall, the country has taken steps to pursue justice for this period of mass repression. With the repeal of controversial amnesty laws in 2003, the dossier on impunity has again been thrown open.

This paper examines a missing element along this spectrum of Argentina’s long search for accountability and justice: the role of foreign financial institutions and the potential to claim that they were complicit in supporting a regime well-known to have been committing mass human rights violations. The article begins by considering the technical legal features of corporate complicity in domestic and international law, paying particular attention to jurisprudence on commercial contributions to states that commit crimes against humanity. It then turns to an examination of empirical and historical data from the Argentinean dictatorship to apply these understandings of corporate accountability to a casestudy. It also juxtaposes other factors—such as the Carter administration’s withholding of financial assistance to Argentina on the explicit basis of the massive violations of human rights known to be taking place there—suggesting evidence that particular banks were enabling the junta to continue to function in a world that had largely shut down previous channels of economic and political support.

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