As Commander of the First Anny Corps during the height of repression under Argentina ‘s military dictatorship. General Guillermo Suarez Mason was responsible for the abduction, torture and disappearance of thousands of Argentines. When Raul Alfonsin came to power in 1984 ending the military reign. Suarez-Mason fled the country to avoid being called to account for his crimes. In January 1987 Suarez-Mason, whose name was contained on an Interpol list of fugitives, was arrested in Foster City. California, where he was held for extradition.
CCR represents Horatio Martinez-Baca, Alfredo Forti and Debora Benchoam. three of Suarez Mason’s victims. in a case patterned on Filartiga v. Pena- Irala. In the 1980 Filartiga case, brought by CCR, the court held that foreign nationals may sue malfeasors for violations of internationally recognized human rights, even when the acts occurred abroad, so long as the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant.
Martinez-Baca was abducted, tortured and detained without charges for more than four days; his mother was never seen again. Benchoam was imprisoned without charges for four and a half years, and her brother was tortured and killed. The three sued Suarez-Mason in April 1987, seeking in excess of $10 million in damages.
A year later, !he court entered a judgment for Martinez-Baca of $21 million. Later that month, Suarez-Mason was extradited to Argentina to race criminal charges for his human rights violations.
In l988 the district court in the Forli and Benchoam cases held that disappearances constituted a violation of customary international law. In April 1990 the court granted plaintiffs Forti and Benchoam a judgment of $8 million in damages.
David Cole, Peter Weiss, and Michael Rainer, wilh cooperating attorney Samuel lssacharoff, William C. Gordon: Kathy Bagdonas Jordaneth, Paul Friedman, Joanne Hoeper and Tom Long of Morrison & Foerster