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Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon at the ESMA illegal detention centre, 1977.

Leonie Duquet (1916, Longemaison, Doubs – 1977) was a French nun who was killed in the Dirty War that took place during the military regime of Argentine President Jorge Rafael Videla.



Leonie Duquet dedicated most of her life to religion, becoming interested in the Catholic ministry when she was young. She joined the Catholic Church in France, and, after taking vows as a nun, she traveled to many countries, on many church-related missions.

Duquet and fellow nun Alice Domon arrived in Argentina at some point during the 1970s. Duquet dedicated herself to helping Argentina's poor, and became involved with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo movement. This enraged the authorities. Argentina was under a military government at the time, and many Argentine citizens that opposed the government were killed or officially disappeared.

Duquet lived and worked at the San Pablo de Ramos Mejia cathedral. In December 1977, she was arrested by Alfredo Astiz. Alfredo Astiz had arrested and given orders to kill Mothers of Plaza de Mayo organizer Azucena Villaflor, and he did not want any witnesses. Leone Duquet was killed by a death squad that the Argentine dictatorship had at the time. She was apparently flown by helicopter and thrown out over the coast of Buenos Aires. Her death caused large outrage around the world, and protests to investigate it reached the United Nations. Various books about her life and case were written.

In 1990, Alfredo Astiz was found guilty of kidnapping by a court in Paris. He was not charged with murder because no bodies had been found yet in Argentina, but he is due to face trial in Argentina.[citation needed]

In January 2005, seven bodies were found in a mass grave. Believing that the bodies were the ones of some of the people disappeared from 1976 to 1983, the new Argentine government ordered for DNA tests to be performed on the bodies. On August 28, 2005, it was revealed that one of the seven bodies found had been identified as being that of Leonie Duquet. Exactly what happened to Alice Domon remains a mystery.


Judged as a part of the ESMA case, Luis Maria Mendia testified in January 2007, before the Argentine judges, that a French intelligence "agent," Bertrand de Perseval, had participated in the abduction of the two French nuns. Perseval, who lives today in Thailand, denied any links with the abduction, but did admit being a former member of the Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS), and having escaped for Argentina after the March 1962 Evian Accords putting an end to the Algerian War (1954–62). French intelligence agents have long been suspected of having trained their Argentine counterparts in "counter-insurgency" techniques (involving massive use of torture, as experimented during the Algerian War). Referring to Marie Monique Robin's film documentary titled The Death Squads - the French School (Les escadrons de la mort - l'école française), which demonstrated that the French intelligence services had trained Argentine counterparts in counter-insurgency techniques, Luis María Mendia asked the Argentine Court that former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former French premier Pierre Messmer, former French ambassador to Buenos Aires Françoise de la Gosse, and all officials in place in the French embassy in Buenos Aires between 1976 and 1983 be summoned before the court.[1] Besides this "French connection," he has also charged former head of state Isabel Perón and former ministers Carlos Ruckauf and Antonio Cafiero, who signed the "anti-subversion decrees" before Videla's 1976 coup d'état. According to ESMA survivor Graciela Dalo, this is another tactic which pretends that these crimes were legitimate as the 1987 Obediencia Debida Act claimed them to be and that they also obeyed to Isabel Perón's "anti-subversion decrees" (which, if true, would give them a formal appearance of legality, despite torture being forbidden by the Argentine Constitution)[2]


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