Although none of the suspects is still alive, an Argentine court in the northern province of Chaco began Tuesday a “truth trial” for the so-called “Napalpi massacre,” the killing of native peoples perpetrated in 1924.
Some survivors over 100 years old and descendants of the victims are expected to testify in the proceedings which seek to determine what actually happened, although there can be no penalties imposed since the alleged killers have all died.
This trial will build through Justice a truth that is written, that symbolically repairs the relatives of the victims and also democracy and new generations, Argentina's Human Rights Secretary Horacio Pietragalla Corti said.
The official was present at Tuesday's opening hearing. A special investigation by the Secretariat has led to this trial. The trial seeks to establish how the Napalpí massacre occurred, in which members of the Qom and Moqoit indigenous peoples were murdered.
On July 19, 1924, about a hundred law enforcement officers and settlers shot members of these communities who were protesting for better working and living conditions.
According to the Prosecutor's Office, there were shots rampage for about an hour, after which some 300 members of the Qom and Moqoit ethnic groups were killed, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, and also children.
The prosecutors' opening statement also highlighted that the wounded who could not escape in time were killed in the cruelest possible ways and there were mutilations and burials in mass graves.
The Prosecutor's Office recalled that the aggressor forces justified the attack as a police confrontation against indigenous rebels and they also tried to present the facts as an alleged confrontation between ethnic groups.
This trial seeks the truth of what happened, which we will try to achieve through the different testimonies and evidence, to arrive at an approximation of the facts as they would have happened, said Federal Judge Zunilda Niremperger, in charge of the trial.
The magistrate added that this process does not seek criminal responsibilities but to make a judicial determination of the facts, to know the truth of what happened, first for the vindication of the memory of the people, to soothe the wounds, to repair as a form of positive action.
But also with the aim of activating the memory and generating collective awareness that serious human rights violations should not be repeated, especially in these cases where they were allegedly generated by the State and against a highly vulnerable group, such as indigenous communities, she said.
In 2019, the massacre was declared a crime against humanity, thus lifting any statute of limitations from it. In November, the Human Rights Secretariat provided as evidence to the case a thorough historical investigation into the facts and motives that led to the massacre almost a century ago.
That investigation features official documents and testimonies of survivors and relatives and describes the denial and cover-up of the massacre by the authorities, who silenced the facts for decades. There was a strategy by the State to construct an official history to deny and cover up the massacre,” the prosecution argued.
In the first hearing of the trial, in addition to the presentation of the Prosecutor's Office and the different plaintiffs, audio-visual records of the Qom historian Juan Chico and of the survivors Pedro Balquinta and Rosa Grilo, who are over 100 years old, were presented.