AFTER more than a year of private moves, the bishops of Argentina have publicly denounced the government's role in the kidnapping, torture and killing of thousands of Argentinians in recent years.
With their action the Argentinian bishops joined a growing list of Latin American hierarchies — including those of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay — which have publicly opposed violations of human rights by their governments. In many cases the public denunciations have followed unsuccessful private attempts to change government policy.
Public order and national security, Argentina's bishops said at the end of their general meeting, "have led many people to accept or tolerate in their conscience the violation of basic human rights. • "These people feel they can rationalise as legal the assassination of the enemy, the moral and physical torture, unwarranted arrests, and the elimination of all those who presumably can become aggressors against collective security."
A recent report by Amnesty International estimated that Argentina was holding 5,000 to 6,000 political prisoners. The report included a documented list of 480 missing people — including a dozen priests. In 1976 alone seven priests, a bishop and three seminarians were killed.