24 August 1993 From: John Bonine
From: email@example.com (Ecuadorian lawyer Byron Real)Alberto Kattan died early this morning, in a hospital in Buenos Aires. He had heart attacks, and efforts to revive him were not successful. Dr. Kattan (or Alberto, as he would insist on being called) was probably the more important and creative environmental lawyer in Latin America, and an inspiration to his many friends and colleagues in other parts of the world. His passing leaves a hole in the hearts of many, but they will surely resolve to carry on his work with renewed determination, so that a healthy environment will become his greatest monument. Before turning to the protection of the environments about one decade ago, Alberto was one of the most courageous human rights lawyers in Latin America. Human rights workers throughout the Americas know about Kattan. They also know that he was kinapped and tortured by the military regime in Argentina in the late 1970s, and that President Jimmy Carter personally intervened to rescue him. But Alberto never wanted others to talk of these things. "They are not important. I am not important," he would say. Many disagreed with him on that, but all agreed that his legacy to citizen access to the judicial systems in Latin America for enforcement of environmental rights was something that is extraordinarily important -- and will remain so for years to come. Alberto personally conceived of the idea of "acciones difusas" (diffuse, or popular, or people's legal actions). He went to court against the Argentine military government in the early 1980s and said that as an ordinary citizen he had the right to act as a legal owner, in effect, of the public dominion ("dominio publico"), under ancient Roman law. Therefore, he had the right to sue in court in its behalf. He fought first for penguins, then for dolphinfs, then for historical preservation. He persuaded the courts of Argentina to ban the use of the pesticides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D ("Agent Orange"). He was the first lawyer in the world to get a court order banning tobacco advertising on the ground that it involved the advertising of toxicsubstances (for which the World Health Organization gave him recognition). But Alberto was much, much more than a lawyer. He was a student of literature. He loved poetry. He had a night-time radio program to discuss these and other things, not law. Mostly, though, Alberto was a human with the biggest heart you could imagine. He would accept no money for his public-interest cases. He would sit up late at night discussing philosophy. And he conveyed love to those around him. Sure, he could be a hard teacher, a demanding mentor. But he wanted people -- particularly younger people -- to reach farther and farther -- intellectually and emotionally. No one who knew Alberto will ever forget him. What is important also is that we rededicate our work to the ideals for which he stood: human dignity, human rights, creative work, and the rights to environmental quality found in more and more consttutions around the world. Our own work as lawyers will be his epitaph. John
(Correo General) Subject: ALBERTO: Requiescat in pace
Dear Friends: Because of technical problems in our e-mail system, we only knew about Alberto's death in the last few days. It was a very hard shock for Marcela and me because since five years ago Alberto was a special friend of us. We always think that he have to be a part of E-LAW, so we introduced Alberto in the net because, in our opinion, his style as a lawyer and as environmental fighter are the correct way to practice public interest law. I remember that Alberto always said: "we, the lawyers, have only one weapon: the law, so we have to use that in the courts". That is the chalenge of our environmental commitment. Our first time that meeting with Alberto, in Quito in 1988, was in the first public interest law conference in Ecuador. I knew him from a magazine in which he was interviewed in 1982. In 1988 he was a Secretary of Argentinian Comission of Hydric Affairs and come to Quito to participate in the conference. In that year Alberto looked healthy, but three years after when I visited him in Buenos Aires, he was very changed in his appearance, I almost did not recognize him because he was very skinny. I asked him whats happen, and he told me that his days are numbered because of health problems. As a lawyer, he was very creative and could use every part of the law to obtain the goal of protect the nature. He offered us valuables ideas to present the Yasuni's case in the Tribunal and our dream was to present together (Alberto, Marcela and I) an international case for the traffic in the Third World of banned medicines and toxics. In the last meeting in Eugene we talk about this idea and we thought that it could be possible to present in the same day (maybe in Earth Day) a lawsuit in every country in which E-LAW has an office or friends. Some days before Alberto's death, I sent him my last book in wich I wrote: to the first Environmental Lawyer in Latin America. Marcela and I, are agree with John's thought: our work will be the best epitaph to our dear friend Alberto. Byron CORDAVI - Corporacion de Defensa de la Vida E-LAW Ecuador - Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (Alianza Mundial de Derecho Ambiental) Quito - ECUADOR Commemoration; First National Congress of Environmental Law, Argentina
Amigos, I wrote this in Argentina, and am only uploading it now.
August 27, 1993
To: Amigos Fr: John Bonine Re: First National Congress of Environmental Law, Argentina DAY 1 & Commemoration of Alberto Kattan (27 Aug. 93) Friends, amigos, Alberto Kattan's death has left a gaping hole in the hearts of many people. I considered him a personal and important friend, as I am sure others did too. Alberto is, I believe, the first person in our international personal (and electronic) family of amigos devoted to protecting the environment -- our network -- to leave us through death. The impact of his life -- and of his passing -- is best understood, however, by being here at this time in the country that he loved so much. One of Alberto's students, Ms. Andreas Frascarelli, stopped me on the street yestrday to pass along some personal words to me from Alberto near the end, in the hospital. She was with him almost at the very end. Neither of us could hold back our tears. In a sense, this first Argentine gathering on environmental law has turned into a commemoration of his work. Listening to the words, and looking at the faces of the environmental law and public-interest community of Argentina, at this conference brings home how crucially important his work has been in this major Latin American country. (In turn, that makes me think of how important the work of each of us is in each of our own countries.) Practically every speaker has included references to Kattan's pioneering work, as part of his or her presentation. There have also been many personal comments about Alberto as a human being. Most moving, however, was the first Plenary Session of the congress. In the program, that first session reads this way: Sesio'n Plearia: Disertacio'n del Dr. ALBERTO KATTAN: "Integracio'n de Conceptos en la Politica Ambiental." The session began with Dra. Susana Castiglione giving her personal remembrances of Alberto, including comments about what he had taught her, and the history of his important and famous cases to protect people's health and environment. The origin of his famous legal action that led to the banning of radio and television advertising of cigarettes (because they were found to be "toxic substances," for which advertising is not permitted by law) was a trip that he made to Costa Rica. During that trip just a few years ago, he saw an advertising sign directed at promoting cigarette smoking among young women. The sign said, "Your first cigarette is like your first bra." He was outraged, and returned to Argentina to look for a way to prohibit such advertising. Susana said that Alberto Kattan had taught her that "there are only two ways to live -- by looking inside of yourself, or by looking outside of yourself" in order to serve others. He chose the latter. Susana said "Alberto never sold himself." He was offered many public posts and a lot of money to work for a law firm, but chose to remain free and independent from such institutions. (Of course, he was also offered money to stop his cases, and personal threats when the money didn't work, but he continued on.) After Susana concluded her remarks, three of Alberto's current or former students came to the stage and each read a part of the presentation that Alberto had prepared for this conference. It was remarkable and impressive to see the poise and self-assurance of each of them, but you could also see that they were struggling to control their personal thoughts. Then an additional chair was brought to the stage, and Alberto's son, Patricio, came up. Patricio Kattan found it difficult to speak, but he did so. He talked of "Papa" as a human and a father, not as a lawyer. Nobody could have had a better father, he said. He remembered Alberto as a man who set an example of complete honesty and complete integrity. He remembered him as a person who loved other people. I don't remember if it was Patricio or Susana who said this, but this serves as a fitting guide for all of us: "Alberto said that when you open your eyes it is a commitment. You can never close them again." Finally, one of Alberto's recent students talked with great fervor about the need to pick up a "weapon" to defend the environment. Explaining himself, he said: "Everyday work is going to be our only weapon." This First National Congress of Environmental Law was Alberto's idea, and he was on the organizing committee. He and his protege', Susana Castiglione, were two of the four persons on the commitee that selected speakers. (The Congreso lasts for three days.) Their influence, and the example of other conferences that each of us has been involved in, is also shown by the fact that attached to this congreso, and as part of its program, is the Primer Encuentro de ONGs Ambientales (First Meeting of Environmental NGOs of Argentina), also here in San Luis at this time. The attendance at this conference is quite large, and all participants are wearing a red ribbon to show solidarity in the fight against AIDS (SIDA). The other main speaker yesterday evening was Dr. Oscar Garzon Funes, the judge who decided many of Alberto's cases. His presentation was entitled, "Derechos Colectivos e Intereses Difusos; Acciones; Antecedentes." The judge talked about Alberto as a friend, and then (the judge being an expert in Roman law), talked about the roots of the "diffuse action" concept in Roman law. For your recollection, Alberto's cases included these:Alberto Kattan: In Memoria, by Jorge Gutierrez, Peru* Accion difusas to protect penguins (1981). * Accion difusas to protect dolphins (this was the first case that Dr. Garzon decided in this line, and established "diffuse actions" as a part of Argentine law). * Suit stopping destruction of Argentina's most famous historical mansion. * Banning of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D in Argentina. * Banning of tobacco advertising on radio and television. * Suit to prohibit pharmaceuticals in Argentina that are prohibited in country of origin. * The current highway case (which Susana will continue).
Para: John Bonine (E-LAW US) De: Jorge Gutierrez S. (E-LAW Peru) Asunto: Alberto Kattan Fecha: September 05, 1993 ----------------------------------------------------------------- -- John: Here is the English version of the message I wrote on the memory of Alberto. I am including the Spanish version also since it wasn't posted before. Esta es la traduccion al ingles del mensaje que escribi en memoria de Alberto. Tambien incluyo la version en castellano ya que no ha aparecido en elaw.amigos anteriormente. Jorge ***************************************************************** ** (ENGLISH) Amigos, Alberto Kattan has died. Perhaps, for some of us, Alberto leaved before we were able to know him beyond his professional facet. However, his struggle in defense of life and nature testify of a great sensibility. The nature of his cases reveal he made of the defense of those who can't speak for themselves a personal duty, and participation of Lawyers in the fight for a better world, a moral commandment. Present and future generations had in Alberto an anonymous champion. Alberto took representation of his fellow citizens and fought against pollution and destruction of the wilderness using the only arms he got: truth and Law. He advocated for dolphins, penguins and man itself, challenging powerful economic groups promoting ills such as tobacco addiction or the use of lethal poisons like 2,4-D around the world. We met Alberto in 1992 and he became part of our network. In E-LAW he found people from different parts of the world, who keep the defense of life as their personal cause just like him. I believe he felt himself identified with this group and think that somehow we have been posthumously entrusted by him to watch for the values and principles he courageously advocated. Jorge Gutierrez S. E-LAW Peru President ----------------------------------------------------------------- (CASTELLANO) Amigos: Alberto Kattan ha muerto. Talvez, para algunos de nosotros, se fue sin que hayamos podido conocerlo mas alla de su faceta profesional. Sin embargo, sus acciones en defensa de la vida y la naturaleza dan testimonio de su gran sensibilidad. Los casos que llevo ante los tribunales reflejan que el habia hecho de la defensa de quienes no tienen voz propia, una obligacion; y de la participacion del abogado en el logro de un mundo mejor, un imperativo etico. La presente y las futuras generaciones han tenido en el un defensor anonimo. Alberto asumio la representacion de sus conciudadanos y lucho contra la polucion y la depredacion de la naturaleza con las unicas armas que tenia: la razon y el derecho. Defendio a los delfines y a los pinguinos, y al propio hombre al enfrentarse a los poderosos intereses que promocionan el tabaquismo o la utilizacion de venemos mortales como el 2,4-D, alrededor del mundo. En 1992 lo conocimos y paso a formar parte de la red internacional de E-LAW donde encontro personas de diversas partes del mundo que, como el, habian hecho de la defensa de la vida su causa. Creo que Alberto se sintio idenficado con este grupo y de alguna manera, pienso, que los que formamos parte de el hemos recibido el postumo encargo de velar por los valores que con valentia y profesionalismo el supo defender. Jorge Gutierrez S. E-LAW Peru Presidente