Francesca Lessa gives expert testimony in case of three victims of Operation Condor
Departmental Lecturer Francesca Lessa has given expert testimony in a case relating to three victims of Operation Condor, the campaign of transnational repression carried out by South American dictators during the 1970s.
Rafaela Filipazzi, an Italian national, and Jose A Potenza, an Argentine national, were abducted in Montevideo, Uruguay, in late May 1977, and were the victims of a forced rendition to Paraguay in early June 1977. After spending months in a secret prison, they disappeared. Their bodies, found in secret graves on police land in the capital Asuncion, were recovered in 2013 and identified in 2016.
The third victim was Uruguayan national Elena Quinteros, who was abducted and disappeared in Montevideo in late June 1976. She was a militant of the Party for the Victory of the People (PVP). She remains disappeared to this day.
The defendant in the case is a former naval officer, Jorge Troccoli, a double Uruguayan and Italian national. He is already serving a life sentence in Italy for his role in 26 murders of Italian and Uruguayan citizens, examined in a previous Operation Condor trial in Italy that ended in 2021.
Dr Lessa was called as an expert witness and spoke for more than three hours, initially providing historical and political context on the military coups, state terror and Operation Condor in South America. She then spoke about each of the victims and the documentary evidence available to reconstruct their specific cases. She also illustrated the military career of the defendant at the time of the events in question. She then answered questions from the prosecutor, the victims' lawyers and the defence lawyer.
Under Operation Condor, dictatorships in countries across South America conspired to kidnap and assassinate political opponents in each other’s territories. It was established by Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay in 1975; these countries were joined by Brazil in 1976 and Peru and Ecuador in 1978.
Dr Lessa has written extensively about Operation Condor and subsequent efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Her most recent book, The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America won the 2023 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America.
She recently worked with partners in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay to create a new website, plancondor.org, which brings together archival documents, books, articles, verdicts in criminal cases, an interactive map of victims, statistical reports and documentaries, all related to Operation Condor.
The case was heard on Tuesday 14 February before Rome's Third Assize Court. The investigation is being led by public prosecutor Dr Erminio Amelio.