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Alice Domon, Caty, (born 1937, Charquemont, Doubs, France; disappeared on December 17 or 18, 1977 near Santa Teresita by the Argentine Sea) was a Roman Catholic nun from France whose forced disappearance occurred in Argentina during the military dictatorship of the "National Reorganization Process" (1976–1983).
Alice Domon was born in Charquemont in France's Doubs region. As a girl she entered the Paris Foreign Missions Society, which invited her to Argentina in 1967, installed in Hurlingham and Morón at the industrial cord of Buenos Aires, to orient to the catechesis for handicapped persons.
Domon was a member of the group directed by Father Ismael Calcagno, first cousin of Jorge Rafael Videla, the dictator in power at the time of the kidnapping and murder. Alice Domon was assigned there along with Léonie Duquet with whom she established a deep friendship. Paradoxically, Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon knew Videla because Alexander requested his aid for the attendance of his son, a handicapped boy whom Alice and Léonie helped, taught, and catechized in the House of the Charity of Morón.
Alice Domon was dedicated to her social work with the inhabitants of poverty-stricken shanty towns. In 1971 she went to Corrientes in order to collaborate with the Ligas Agrarias organization, that was organized by the small producers of cotton.
When the military coup of March 24, 1976, installed a regime founded on state terrorism, Domon made the decision to actively participate in human rights organizations. Upon her return to Corrientes she found lodging at Léonie Duquet's house.
In December 1977, Sisters Alice and Léonie, along with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other human rights activists, prepared a request for the names of those who disappeared and for the government to divulge their whereabouts. The reply was publicized in the newspaper La Nación on December 10, 1977, the same day Alice Domon disappeared. The name Gustavo Niño was found among the signatures as a false name, used by navy captain Alfredo Astiz, to infiltrate the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in May.
Disappearance, kidnapping, torture, and assassination
Template:Onesource Between Thursday, December 8 and Saturday, December 10, 1977 a militant group under the command of Alfredo Astiz, who was under the command of Argentine President Jorge Rafael Videla, kidnapped a group of 12 people connected with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Among them one was Alice Domon, along with Azucena Villaflor her companion and founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and French nun Léonie Duquet.
Sister Alice was taken directly to the secret detention center in the Navy Sub-Officers Mechanics School (ESMA), under the control of the Argentina Navy, where she was shut in detention in a "Hood". There she remained approximately 10 days, during which she was constantly tortured. Informe Nunca Más the witness testimonies from Maggio and Cubas, survivors of the ESMA, related what they knew on the subject:
...The same thing happened to the French nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Renée Duquet. I had the chance to speak with Sister Alice personally, she had already been taken along with Sister Renée to the third floor of the Officers' Mess in the ESMA, that was where I found her captive. This happened around December 11 or 12. I remember that was when she had been kidnapped at the church. I was soon aware of 13 people; the Sisters were weak and badly beaten; Alice already needed two guards to carry and maintain her in the bathroom. I asked if they had been tortured and they answered yes: they had been tied to a bed completely naked and stabbed all over their body; in addition they told of later being forced to write a letter to the Leader of their Congregation, they wrote it in French under constant torture, afterward they both had a photo taken of them seated next to a table. The pictures were taken to the basement of the same building where the torture took place: the basement of the Officers' Mess. They were both at ESMA about 10 days, tortured and interrogated. Later the eleven remaining people were transferred. The rumours mention the haste of their departure, this indicates the murders of the same (Testimony of Horacio Domingo Maggio, File #4450).
... Around 10 or 12 of them were taken down, including the French Sister Alice Domon. Later Sister Rennée Duquet, from the same religious congregation as Alive, was also taken to ESMA. They put Sister René in "Capuchita". Sisters Alice and Renée were savagely tortured, especially Alice. Their conduct was admirable. Up until their worst moments of pain, Sister Alice, who was in "Capucha", asked for the luck of her compadres and, at the pinnacle of irony, she emphasized the "little blond boy", who was none other than Frigate Lieutentat Astiz (who had infiltrated the group, passing himself off as a relative of a desaparecido. At gunpoint they made Sister Alice write a letter in her own handwriting [...] As the crowning glory of this parody, they took pictures (of both Sisters) in the photo lab of the ESMA, in which they appeared seated at a table with a flag of the Montonero Party behind them. Sisters Alice and Renée were "transferred" and, along with them, the other that were captured in their group. (Testimony of Lisandro Raúl Cubas, File #6794).
The French nationality of the two sisters, Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon, generated an international scandal, especially with France. For this reason, Army Chief and Junta Member Emilio Massera tried to make it appear as if both nuns had been kidnapped by the Montoneros guerilla organization. To this end, Domon was obligated under torture to write a letter to her superior in her order, in French, saying that she had been abducted by a group opposed to the administration of Jorge Videla. The torturers then took a picture of the two nuns seated in front of a Montonero flag and sent it to a national newspaper. The picture, which was taken in the basement of the ESMA, showed obvious signs that the two women were tortured, and were sent to the French press.
On December 15, 1977, La Nación published a notice from the EFE news agency under the title "Vivas y con buena salud" (Alive and in good health). The article informed that the Mother Superior of the Congreagation in France said that the Sisters Léonie and Alice had been detained but remained alive and in good heath. She clarified that the information came from the Papal Nuncio in Argentina.
Either on December 17 or December 18, 1977, the two Sisters and the rest of their group were trasladadas ("transferred": a euphemism used by the military when murdering dissidents) to the military airport in Buenos Aires, were seated in a Marine plane and thrown out of the plane while still alive into the sea on the coast of Santa Teresita, dying as soon as they hit the water.
An example of the atrocious humor of the marines linked with the repression during the so-called Guerra Sucia or Dirty War, they would occasionally make reference to the "flying nuns.". In 1990, Capitan Alfredo Astiz was sentenced in absence to life in prison by the Appellate Court in Paris due to his responsibility in the deaths of Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon.
Search for remains
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On December 20, 1977, dead bodies began to appear on the beaches of Buenos Aires Province, seemingly coming out of the sea, near the bathing areas of Santa Teresita and Mar del Tuyú. Forensic doctors examined the corpses and determined the cause of death to be "a crash against hard objects from great heights", indicated by the type of bone fractures that were sustained before death. Without further investigation, the local authorities immediately buried the corpses in unmarked graves in the cemetery of the city of General Lavalle.
After the re-establishment of democracy in 1984, the investigations of the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons and the Trial of the Juntas led to the exhuming of graves in the cemetery of General Lavalle, in which they found a great deal of skeletal remains belonging to the cadavers found in the beaches of San Bernardo and Lucila del Mar. The remains were used in the trial against the Juntas and then stored in sixteen bags.
From that point on, Judge Horacio Cattani began to accumulate cases about desaparecidos. After the Ley de Punto Final and the Ley de Obediencia Debida, that froze the investigation, Cattani obtained in 1995 an archive of 40 square meters containing potential answers to these questions.
In 2003, the Chief of Police of General Lavalle informed that they had identified more unmarked graves in the town cemetery. Judge Cattani ordered that new excavations be carried out by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, who discovered two rows of graves side-by-side. They discovered eight skeletons: five female, two male, and one uncertain (classified as "probably male").
As a result of further study, the five female remains were found to belong to five of the women captured between December 8 and 10, 1977: Azucena Villaflor, María Ponce de Bianco, Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, Angela Auad, and Sister Léonie Duquet. All of them have now been buried in the garden of the Santa Cruz church. The remains of Alice Domon were not found and remain missing.
Knowledge and cover-up by the United States government
Secret government documents from the United States Government declassified in 2002 prove that the American government knew since 1978 that the lifeless bodies of the French nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet and the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Azucena Villaflor, Esther Ballestrino and María Ponce had been found in the beaches of Buenos Aires Province. This information was maintained in secret and was never revealed to the democratic Argentine government.
The fact is included in Document #1978-BUENOS-02346 directed by the former U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Raúl Castro, to the Secretary of State of the United States, dated March 30, 1978 and carried the subject line "Report of nuns death". The document reads:
1. A.F.P. March 28 story filed from Paris reports that the bodies of the two French nuns (Alicia Doman and Renee Duguet) (sic) who were abducted in mid December with eleven other human rights activists were identified among corpses near Bahía Blanca
2. Buenos Aires was filled with such rumors over a month ago based on accounts of the discovery of a number of cadavers beached by unusually strong winds along Atlantic Sea, points closer to the mouth of La Plata River some 300-350 miles to the north of Bahía Blanca.
3. (Name redacted), which has been trying to track down these rumors, has confidential information that the nuns were abducted by Argentine security agents and at some point were transferred to a prison located in the town of Juníi, which is 150 miles west of Buenos Aires.
4. Embassy also has confidential information through an Argentine government source (protected) that seven bodies were discovered some weeks ago on the beach near Mar del Plata. According to this source, the bodies were those of the two nuns and five mothers who disappeared between December 8 and December 10, 1977. Our source confirmed that these individuals were originally sequestered by members of the security forces acting under a broad mandate against terrorists and subversives. Source further states that few individuals in GOA were aware of this information.
5. The source has reported reliably in the past and we have reason to believe he is reliable concerning disappearance questions.
Every December 8, in the Santa Cruz church of San Cristobal, the anniversary of the disappearance of the group of members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, activists for human rights and the two French nuns, Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon.
In 2000, Law #397 declared by the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires named a small plaza "Hermana Alice Domon y Hermana Leonie Duquet" located at the intersection of Moreto, Medina, and Cajaravilla streets. In the same year, film director Alberto Marquardt premiered a film titled Yo, Sor Alice about Alice Domon's life that was an Argentine-French co-production
El Infiltrado: La Verdadera Historia de Alfredo Astiz, Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, 1996, by Uki Goñi in Spanish.
- Seoane, María (2001), El dictador, Buenos Aires: Sudamericana
- Historia de apariciones, por Victoria Guinzberg
- In memorian de Léonie Duquet, La Vaca, September 27, 2005
- The complete list of those kidnapped was composed of Azucena Villaflor de Vicenti, Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, and María Ponce de Bianco (the three founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo); the nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet, and human rights activists Angela Auad, Remo Berardo, Horacio Elbert, José Julio Fondevilla, Eduardo Gabriel Horane, Raquel Bulit, and Patricia Oviedo.
- Capítulo II, Víctimas, E. Religiosos, Informe Nunca Más, CONADEP, 1985
- Vivas y con buena salud, La Nación, December 15, 1977
- Tecnología, tenacidad y una muestra de sangre traída de Francia en secreto, Clarín, August 30, 2005
- http://www.clarin.com/diario/2006/04/03/um/m-01170581.htm Francia entregó las pruebas con las que condenó a Astiz, Clarín, April 3, 2006
- Por primera vez hallan cuerpos de los vuelos de la muerte, Río Negro, July 9, 2005
- Inhumaron los restos de la monja francesa Léonie Duquet, Clarín, September 25, 2005
- Documento Secreto de la Embajada de EEUU en Argentina, Nº 1978-BUENOS-02346, March 30, 1978, Report of nuns death
- Yo, Sor Alice, Argentina-Francia, 2000