History of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

Children Who were Disappeared or Who Were Born in Captivity. The drama of children who were disappeared in our country, the Argentine Republic, is one of the consequences of the National Reorganization Process enforced by the military dictatorship, which ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.

These children are the children of our children, who have also disappeared. Many babies were kidnapped with their parents, some after their parents were killed, and others were born in clandestine detention centers where their mothers were taken after having been sequestered at different states of their pregnancies.

We, the babies' grandmothers, tried desperately to locate them and, during these searches, decided to unite. Thus, in 1977, the non-governmental organization called Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo was established, dedicated specifically to fighting for the return of our grandchildren. We also relentlessly investigated our children's and grandchildren's disappearances, in hopes of finding them.

As mothers our search is two-folded because we are demanding the restitution of our grandchildren while simultaneously searching for these children's parents, our sons and daughters.

From the moment that our children (often with our grandchildren in their wombs) disappeared, we visited every court, office, orphanage, day care center, and so on, to locate them. We appeared before the courts, the successive military governments, the Supreme Court, and the ecclesiastical hierarchies, never obtaining a positive result. We finally directed our claim to international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States, again to no avail.

In 1977 we began our struggle with the claim for 13 children's restitutions. As of August 2004, over 400 children have been recorded as missing. However, we know that there are approximately 500 kidnapped children. In many cases, their relatives did not declare such kidnappings, either due to ignorance of the ability to do so or because they did not know that the mothers were pregnant at the time of their disappearance.

The disappeared children were deprived of their identity, their religion, and their right to live with their family, in order words, all of the rights that are nationally and internationally recognized as their universal human rights.

Our demand is concrete: that the children who were kidnapped as a method of political repression be restored to their legitimate families.

Procedures for the Search of Our Grandchildren

Since 1976, we have pursued:

  • Investigations at local and federal courts, including cases of granted adoptions and also with regard to NN children (names unknown) who may have been recorded at those courts.

  • Investigations of all births registered in governmental offices after the conclusion of the normal legal term for such registration.

  • Beginning in 1997, we began informational campaigns to draw young people (of an approximate age range of our grandchildren) that may have doubts regarding their true identity to Abuelas. We have had very positive results

We continually publish announcements in local newspapers read by individuals who are aware of information relating to the kidnappings but who keep silent either due to complicity or fear. In addition, we distribute posters and leaflets with photographs and details of the disappearance of children.

When reports are made, all information is filed into folders containing individual accusations of each case, details of the disappearance, photographs of the child and/or his/her parents, identification documents, and habeas corpus that have been filed, among other information. Each person who makes the denouncement signs all these documents. A certificate of the mother's pregnancy is included, in a case where the detainee was pregnant, or a birth certificate of the child, in the event that the child was kidnapped after birth.

In our discourse, we make it clear that our grandchildren have not been abandoned; they have the right to recover their roots and their history; they have relatives who are constantly engaged in searching for them.

In the 30 years, we have been able to located 120 of the disappeared children, including 4 found by governmental commissions and 2 located by CLAMOR, the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Southern Cone.

Some of the children are already living with their legitimate families and have become perfectly integrated. Others are still living with the families that have raised them, but are in close contact with their true grandmothers and relatives. By being a part of two families, the children have recovered their identity.

There is a large number of disappeared children whose identities were completely annulled. In those cases, we use modern science to prove that they are members of a particular family. For this purpose, we rely on support from the scientific community in the field of genetics, hematology, morphology, and others.

Through our participation and effort in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, we were able to push for the inclusion of articles 7, 8 and 11, which refer to the right to an identity and are known as the "Argentine clauses." This International Convention was later incorporated into the Argentine Constitution, via law number 23,849.

In 1992, as a direct result of a petition we organized, the National Executive Power of our government created CONADI, the National Committee for the Right to Identity. The main objective of this organization is to assist young adults who doubt their identities by investigating all existing documents and referring them for blood analysis. Blood analyses are conducted by the National Bank of Genetic Data, which has the power to perform such analyses without legal intervention.