Argentina’s government has annulled a prestigious decoration awarded by its 1976-1983 military dictatorship to former French budget minister Maurice Papon, convicted in 1998 for crimes against humanity for deporting Jews during World War II
In a ceremony in the Casa Rosada on Tuesday, President Alberto Fernández announced a decree revoking the Orden de Mayo (Gran Cruz degree) awarded to Papon during an official visit to Buenos Aires by then-junta chief Jorge Videla back in 1979.
The Orden de Mayo honours foreigners for their contributions to progress, welfare, culture and international understanding and solidarity.
The decree, which was published in the Official Gazette last Wednesday, included prohibiting Papon’s family and friends from exhibiting or using the decoration, while requesting its return to Argentina.
"This is part of our commitment to keeping alive the Holocaust claims for justice against those who committed those atrocities and by keeping our conscience in peace that no [perpetrator of] genocide wears an Argentine decoration on his chest," said President Fernández during the ceremony.
Between 1997 and 1998 Papon faced a trial lasting six months for the deportation of 1,690 Jews from the French city of Bordeaux, where he was the secretary-general for the departmental prefect.
Sentenced to 10 years in prison, he was arrested in 1999 but released in 2002 due to his state of health. He died in 2007 at the age of 96.
Science & Technology Minister Daniel Filmus, who was present at the ceremony also attended by the French and Israeli ambassadors, told the press that the revocation is an act of reciprocity.
In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron signed a decree withdrawing the Ordre National du Mérite awarded in 1985 to Ricardo Cavallo, a torturer during the brutal 1976-1983 dictatorship, while he was working as a military attaché at Argentina’s Embassy in Paris.
Cavallo, who participated in the so-called 'death flights' in which thousands of drugged detainees were thrown into the Río de la Plata, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 before receiving further sentences in 2017 for crimes during the dictatorship including abductions, tortures and the murder of two French nuns.