As part of this project, I have also been building a database in order to chart the transnational human rights atrocities perpetrated across South America between 1970 and 1981. The database encompasses cases of victims that suffered human rights violations as a result of the coordination of political repression during the years of state terror in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, as well as a handful of cases perpetrated in non-South American countries, namely Italy, the USA, and Spain.

The database was constructed by applying criteria derived from a policy brief that had been published as a result of an earlier phase of this project. The brief identified that “the crossing of borders” constituted the key component required in order to properly distinguish and categorise cases of transnational repression. This crossing of borders was further broken down into three component elements, namely: (a) exchanging information about a victim between at least two countries (the victim’s country of origin and the country where the victim is located); (b) the participation of foreign agents in the criminal act(s); and (c) the forceful return of the victim(s) from the country of detention to their country of origin.

A case of human rights violations can be therefore classified as transnational when at least one or more of these elements applies.

The main sources used in compiling the database were: (1) truth commission reports from Chile, Paraguay, and Brazil; (2) data provided by the Uruguayan Secretariat for Human Rights Violations of the Recent Past; (3) data on human rights trials provided by the Argentine Public Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Humanity and by the Uruguayan Observatorio Luz Ibarburu; (4) declassified documents consulted at the National Security Archive in Washington DC; (5) the UNESCO 2016’s list of victims of repressive coordination; and (6) the Operation Condor trial held in Rome, Italy. These were complemented with secondary literature sources and further internet searches.

While this is still a work in progress, so far, the database has confirmed 406 cases of victims of transnational human rights violations in South America between December 10, 1970 and February 19, 1981. Breaking down the cases by nationality, the majority of victims (219) were Uruguayan citizens (54%), 75 were Argentines (19%), 52 were Chileans (13%), 26 were Paraguayans, 13 were Peruvians, 10 were Brazilians, 5 were Bolivians, 2 were American citizens, 2 were Cubans, 1 was Italian and 1 was Spanish. When looking at the typology of crimes perpetrated, the modus operandi of Condor reflected state terror policies in this region, in light of the high incidence of murders and enforced disappearances (231 cases, amounting to 57% of the total), 158 instances of illegal detentions and torture (39%), and 17 cases of kidnapped children. When broken down by country, the database confirms that Argentina witnessed the highest number of atrocities (320, 79% of the total), followed by Uruguay (33, 8%), Peru (17), Brazil (14), Paraguay (8) and Bolivia (7).

As part of the project, Dr Lessa has additionally mapped domestic criminal prosecutions that have investigated transnational atrocities since the late 1970s, for a total of 25 trials globally. Uruguay has the largest number of trials (12), followed by Argentina (5), Chile (4), Italy (1), Paraguay (1), Brazil (1) and the USA (1). More than half of these prosecutions (15) already have a first-instance sentence, 9 are still ongoing, and one has been shelved. There has been a high degree of judicialization of cases of victims of Operation Condor, with the judiciary having investigated 68% of recorded cases of victims. More specifically, 185 cases of victims have already received a sentence, while 90 are currently in the trial or pre-trial stage, while for 131 cases no information could be found.

The database will be made publicly available upon the project's completion. If you would like to find out more about the dataset, please get in touch with me at

Victims and relatives awaiting the verdict in the Operation Condor Trial, 27 May 2016

The tribunal reads out the verdict, 27 May 2016

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