Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Major Professor

Rachel May


Argentina, Disappeared, Human Rights, Relatives Organizations, State Terror, Transitional Justice


This thesis focuses on the importance of truth and memory in the process of transitional justice, within the context of the aftermath of gross violations of human rights that occurred during the military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983 in Argentina. The military junta that ruled Argentina took power under the pretext of national security, arguing that an enemy threatened to destabilize and destroy Argentine society. During the period of the military dictatorship an estimated 30,000 people "disappeared"; relatives of those disappeared mobilized and formed human rights organizations to confront the military regime for its abuses. Once the dictatorship collapsed and democratic rule was reestablished these human rights organizations changed their focus, mobilizing once again to find their missing relatives, learn the truth, and prosecute those responsible of any crimes.

A series of amnesty laws and pardons protected the perpetrators of many of the crimes of the military regime through most of the 1990's, until in 2005 the Argentine Supreme Court declared those laws unconstitutional. During the period before the 2005 ruling human rights organizations worked hard to gather the truth about the crimes of the military regime and ensure these crimes were not forgotten. Their initiatives included the famous weekly march to the Plaza de Mayo by members of Madres (Mothers), one of the most important human rights organizations in Argentina; escraches (reveal what is hidden) and public protests by HIJOS (Sons and daughters of the disappeared), actions in which members of HIJOS would go to the houses of known members of the military juntas and protest at their front doors; and programs to find missing grandchildren by Abuelas (Grandmothers), a human rights organization dedicated to searching for the missing children of the disappeared; and others. Because of the structure of terror during the military junta, most Argentines did not know exactly what was happening to the missing persons, and they were afraid to ask. The truth gathering initiatives and the official report of the commission charged with investigating the junta, CONADEP, came into being in response to this lack of knowledge. They helped to inform the Argentine people and the new generations of what had happened during the military dictatorship in hopes of making sure that such abuses do not occur again.