Argentina convicts former military officials for ‘Dirty War’ crimes

A Buenos Aires court’s conviction of 16 former military officials for crimes against humanity committed decades ago is a powerful victory for justice in the fight against impunity, Amnesty International said today. Former Navy captain Alfredo Astiz and 15 others were yesterday given prison sentences for their role in crimes against humanity committed during military rule between 1976 and 1983. These included the arbitrary detention, torture and unlawful killing of dozens of people at a secret detention centre set up in a military school in Buenos Aires.  Among those killed were French nuns Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon, human rights activists Azucena Villaflor, María Bianco and Esther Careaga, co-founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and writer and journalist Rodolfo Walsh.“This verdict is the latest to bring former military officials to account for egregious human rights violations committed during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ in the 70s and 80s,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.“Justice is being delivered at last to these families, sending a strong message that this kind of abuse will never again be tolerated.” Out of those convicted, 12 were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Four received jail sentences ranging from 18 to 25 years. In addition to Astiz, those sentenced to life imprisonment included former Navy captains Jorge Eduardo “Tigre” Acosta and Ricardo Cavallo, who was extradited from Mexico in 2008. The trial, which covered 86 separate crimes against humanity, lasted two years. It included testimony from more than 150 witnesses, including some 80 survivors of abuses at the hands of military officials. The Argentine security forces operated a clandestine detention centre at a Buenos Aires naval school (Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada, ESMA) where hundreds of people were held after being abducted. Those in captivity were either killed under torture or flung to their death from aeroplanes.During military rule in Argentina from 1976-1983, the security forces abducted around 30,000 people, many of whom are still unaccounted for. Widespread and systematic human rights violations occurred, including torture and extrajudicial executions on a grand scale. “Although more than a quarter-century has passed since the ‘Dirty War’ abuses wracked Argentine society, the victims’ demands must be honoured by bringing all those responsible to justice,” said Guadalupe Marengo.