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News > Argentina

Argentina's ESMA Museum Declared World Heritage Site

  • ESMA, a former clandestine center of detention, torture and extermination in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    ESMA, a former clandestine center of detention, torture and extermination in Buenos Aires, Argentina. | Photo: X/ @UNESCO

Published 19 September 2023

In this Memorial Museum, the dictatorship established a clandestine prison where it tortured and murdered thousands of social activists.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Navy Mechanics School Museum (ESMA), in which the largest clandestine detention and torture center operated during the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983), as world heritage.


Argentina's Memory Museum Nominated For UNESCO Heritage Site

Until now, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial were the only two facilities linked to genocides that had been declared heritage sites.

UNESCO is also expected to discuss World Heritage nominations for the WWI Western Front funerary center in France and sites commemorating the Rwandan genocide.

"World heritage is also recognized as a privileged vehicle of the human rights policy of the Argentine State," UNESCO official Marcela Losardo said.

The text reads, "Pride in Argentine human rights policies!" Video shared by the Human Rights Secretariat after UNESCO declared the ESMA Memorial Site Museum as a World Heritage Site."

"In the former Navy Mechanics School, the military regime carried out the horror. There were detainees, tortured, exiled, disappeared, and death flights... We continue searching for the remains," Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said upon knowing of the declaration of ESMA as a heritage site.

He also highlighted the role that the political prisoners' grandmothers, mothers, and wives played in making state terrorism visible in Argentina, a country that returned to democracy 40 years ago.

"These women never sought revenge, but they demanded justice, truth, and reparation. That is what we are looking for," Fernandez said, referring to the symbolic meaning acquired by the inclusion of ESMA in the world's list of heritage sites.

The World Heritage Committee is composed of representatives from Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, South Africa, Thailand, and Zambia.

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