CONADEP: "An Extraordinary Appointment"

In 1982, the military government provoked what would be the disastrous Falklands/Malvinas War with England, a conflict that ultimately cost the junta its power. After the military’s defeat, Argentina’s newly elected president, Raúl Alfonsín, issued an executive order on December 15, 1983, demanding that human rights abuses during El Proceso be investigated. To this end, Alfonsín created the Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (National Commission on Disappeared Persons), or CONADEP.

The commission was chaired by the well-known writer Ernesto Sabato and also included Rabbi Marshall Meyer. The appointment came as quite a surprise to Marshall and his family. He had already made plans to take a position at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, CA. However, Marshall accepted this extraordinary appointment, which recognized his courage as one of the first to speak out during the height of the human rights abuses. He was the only non-native Argentine to be appointed to the commission.

The commission was charged with investigating, recording, and compiling a report of all of the human rights abuses from 1976 to 1983. The bulk of Marshall’s work involved taking new testimonies and depositions from exiled Argentines in the United States and Europe. He visited Paris, Geneva, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC, interviewing dozens of exiles who told their stories of illegal detention, torture, and imprisonment for the first time. For instance, when Jacobo Timerman returned to Argentina in 1984, Marshall accompanied him to the clandestine prisons where he had been tortured and “made them open the cells, demanded explanations, ordered the place to be photographed and filmed.”

In 1984, for Marshall’s service to the Argentine nation, President Alfonsín awarded him The Order of the Liberator San Martín .