An effort by the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to patch old political hatreds got off to a bad start in Montevideo, Uruguay, two weeks ago. The commission deserves most of the blame.

What it calls a “memory, truth and justice” curriculum for 2018-19 is an attempt to recall, recognize and record human-rights violations and reconcile societies. But what transpired in Montevideo demonstrates how despised truth-seekers can be among the Latin American left, which has hijacked the term “human rights” for its own political purposes.

The event brought some 250 rights advocates together at the Four Points Sheraton hotel for a public consultation on the curriculum. That representatives of the Venezuelan Marxist dictatorship were present gives you some idea of the leftist tilt. But there were also six Argentines—lawyers and representatives—from two human-rights groups dedicated to equality under the law and due process.

María Elena García is president of the Collective for the Defense of the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of Freedom and Access to Justice in Argentina. The organization works to secure due process and humanitarian treatment for Argentines who fought guerrilla terrorism and are imprisoned in violation of their civil liberties.

She told me in an email that when her colleague Guillermo Fanego rose to speak about the importance of “complete” memory—that is, recognizing victims on both sides of a conflict—he was shouted down. The Argentine daily La Nación confirmed that account. In an editorial on Oct. 27 it described the assaults against the Argentines as “loud boos, insults, threats and shoving, which generated an unfortunate climate of violence and intolerance.”

Ms. García told me that the moderator, commission executive secretary Paulo Abrão, was complicit in his silence during the uproar. Later, she told me, he announced that the curriculum will deal only with abuses committed by states. This, Ms. García noted, is “in clear contradiction to the postulates” of the commission. Another witness noted that the Venezuelan Marxists were not cut off when they accused civilians in their country of human-rights crimes.

Moreover, Mr. Abrão did not intervene when a Chilean called for a show of hands to expel the Argentines from the meeting, which is what transpired.

Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi gave shout-outs to leftist groups, according to participant María Werlau, executive director of the U.S.-based nongovernmental Cuba Archive. She told me in an email that Mr. Vannuchi also spoke about the honor he felt at attending a recent memorial event for Che Guevara in Bolivia. While there, he said, he complained to the government about its failure to form a “truth commission” to investigate the Guevara’s death and had offered technical assistance from the commission to do it.

This was strange coming from a human-rights advocate, Ms. Werlau noted in her email, given that Guevara’s own writings endorsed “killing, hatred, violence, repression, racism and homophobia.” Cuba Archive has documented 98 extrajudicial executions directly ordered by Guevara after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

On Friday consultant Renata Barreto Preturlan at the Human Rights Commission answered my request for comment. She described the Argentines as “representatives and relatives of military officials condemned for or accused of human rights violations during the Argentine dictatorship.”

This is certainly not an accurate description of Ms. García’s group. Its emphasis on “complete” memory is a plea to clarify the country’s history leading up to and during the military dictatorship because thousands of victims of guerrilla terrorism from that period have been denied justice. It works to restore the rights of many Argentines—not only military—who were rounded up during the hard-left Kirchner governments (2003-15) and imprisoned without proof of a crime but merely because they opposed the terrorists years ago.

Ms. Barreto claimed that the Argentines “spoke on the same terms as the other participants,” which is patently false because no other participants were shouted down and expelled.

Ms. Barreto explained the expulsion on grounds that the Argentines had objected to being segregated into a specially designated breakout group. This generated “a reaction on the part of the participants themselves.” The implication being that the Argentines were not proper participants.

In fact the prearranged breakout groups had innocuous nonpolitical titles like “memory politics,” “archives and access to information” and “justice and the struggle against impunity.” Banishing the Argentines was an act of blatant discrimination.

Ms. Barreto closed her response by noting that the commission “is not responsible for the attitudes of third parties in its activities.” Yet surely it has a role in protecting minority viewpoints and defending the rights of all to speak and engage in the process. Judging from this first meeting, it looks as if its work has already been compromised by the left and will turn out to be more about revenge than reconciliation.

 

MARY ANASTASIA O´GRADY