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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 19:27 GMT
Car firm probes Argentina missing case
Relatives of Argentina's
Tens of thousands vanished during the "Dirty War"
The car firm DaimlerChrysler has announced an external inquiry into claims that one of its subsidiaries handed over 14 union activists to Argentina's military dictatorship in the 1970s.

DaimlerChrysler says the investigation, being headed by a German law professor, is designed to dispel allegations made by the human rights group, Amnesty International.

Graves in Buenos Aires
Bodies of the junta's victims are still being found
The German-American firm says it has already held its own internal inquiries, which found no evidence of wrongdoing.

But faced with continuing allegations, DaimlerChrysler is now determined to completely clear its name, a spokesman told BBC News Online.

The Amnesty report centres on the disappearance of a group of Argentine trade unionists who were representing workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant, Gonzalez Catan, in Buenos Aires province.

German reports have alleged that managers at the factory handed over the names and addresses of the 14 activists to the junta.

They disappeared, and - like tens of thousands of other people during Argentina's "Dirty War" - were never seen again.


I cannot judge whether there is anything in it, but we can't allow such an accusation to stand

Group chairman
Erich Klemm
The junta collapsed in 1983, leaving no record of what had happened to the disappeared.

DaimlerChrysler now says it is determined to lay the claims over the 14 activists to rest once and for all.

"I cannot judge whether there is anything in it, but we can't allow such an accusation to stand," said group chairman Erich Klemm in Stuttgart, southwest Germany.

The company insists that it has failed to find any proof of the claims.

Law professor

"There is no evidence whatsoever that the employees of Mercedes-Benz Argentina had anything to do with the disappearance of 14 co-workers during the military dictatorship in Argentina," spokesman Thomas Froehlich said.

"DaimlerChrysler has investigated those incidents. No involvement of Mercedes-Benz Argentina or of its employees - as occasionally has been alleged - could be determined.


It will be very difficult 26 years afterwards to obtain precise testimony about what exactly happened

Inquiry head
Christian Tomuschat
"However, in order to continue to investigate the suspicious circumstances voiced in public, the aim of the investigation commission in the next few months will be to shed light upon events that occurred 25 years ago."

The inquiry will be headed by a Berlin law professor, Christian Tomuschat, who says tracking down evidence a quarter of a century later could prove a challenge.

"It's a very complex case above all because it will be difficult to collect evidence," he said.

"It will be very difficult 26 years afterwards to obtain precise testimony about what exactly happened."

His final report is expected by next autumn.

See also:

24 Mar 01 | Americas
09 Jul 02 | Americas
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