Argentine Justice Speaks on War Crimes
Argibay's lecture was the last of a three-part series of lectures on international criminal law hosted by the UCLA School of Law, the UCLA Latin American Institute and the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
She represents, in Argentina and elsewhere, a judicial independence, intellectual honesty and a commitment to the role of judges to democracy, to human rights and to the rule of law.
This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.
By Samantha Bryson, Daily Bruin contributor
ARGENTINE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Carmen Argibay spoke Tuesday about the history of war crimes as well as her own experiences with Argentina’s military regime in the late 1970s in a lecture event co-sponsored by the UCLA School of Law.
A member of the Supreme Court since 2005, Argibay and was the first woman in Argentina to be appointed to the office of supreme court justice.
She participated in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as well as the Tokyo Tribunal that held members of the Japanese military accountable for the trafficking of women as sex slaves during World War II.
“We are always fighting this tension between the desire, the need for peace to live in, and, on the other hand, human beings’ jealously, envy and need for power makes war a very important part of the history of humanity,” Argibay said in her opening remarks.
Her overview of international criminal justice reached back centuries to the system of rules governing knights, through the inception of the Red Cross, to the Geneva Conventions and finally to some of the military tribunals being conducted in Argentina today.
Michelle Groisman, a law student who attended the lecture, said she thought Argibay’s presentation was excellent.
“She gave a great overview of the entire international criminal system. It was a good way to learn a lot of background information,” Groisman said.
Groisman, whose parents are both from Argentina, was also excited about seeing Argibay herself.
“She was the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Argentina by a democratically elected government. It’s a really big deal there,” she added.
Argibay went on to talk about the Tokyo Tribunal of 2000 in which she served as one of the four judges who determined that the emperor of Japan violated international law by engaging in sex trafficking.
“The women in the countries that were invaded by Japan before and during World War II were taken to what the Japanese army called ‘comfort stations,’” Argibay said.
Women were taken from various countries in Southeast Asia and sent to countries where they didn’t know the language or customs, Argibay said.
“Nobody took care of them. Nobody. And they were not even mentioned in the Tokyo or Nuremberg Tribunals,” she said.
Argibay and the other judges at the tribunal officially recognized these “comfort women” in 2000 and, according to the summary ruling of the tribunal, found the Japanese emperor at the time guilty of crimes against humanity in the form of rape and sexual slavery.
“She represents, in Argentina and elsewhere, a judicial independence, intellectual honesty and a commitment to the role of judges to democracy, to human rights and to the rule of law in Latin America and elsewhere,” said Maximo Langer, a professor of law and the organizer of the event.
When a new military regime took power in Argentina in 1976, Argibay was teaching at the University of Buenos Aires and was arrested by the regime. Held without trial or charges, she was imprisoned for eight months.
Langer said Argibay recently oversaw the trials of some of the people involved with the military coup that landed her and so many others in prison.
He added that in one case, Argibay still did not vote to overturn the pardon previously granted to one defendant because she felt there was a lack of evidence.
Argibay’s lecture was the last of a three-part series of lectures on international criminal law hosted by the UCLA School of Law, the UCLA Latin American Institute and the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.