Argentina: 48 ex-officers sentenced in ‘dirty war’

An Argentine judicial panel on Nov. 28 sentenced (PDF) 29 former officials to life in prison, and 19 to between 8-25 years, for murder and torture during the military junta's 1976-1983 "Dirty War." The sentencing concluded a five-year trial and represented Argentina's largest verdict to date for crimes against humanity. Collectively, the 48 defendants were charged with the deaths of 789 victims. The prosecution called more than 800 witnesses to make their case. Additionally, the court acquitted six former officials.

The crimes were committed at the Higher School of Mechanics of the Navy (ESMA), which was used by the junta to illegally detain, torture and kill roughly 5,000 people. During the "Dirty War" an estimated 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents. ESMA is now a Human Rights museum and memorial to the atrocities of the junta.

From Jurist, Nov. 30. Used with permission.

Note: Among those sentenced ro life were Alfredo Astiz AKA "The Blond Angel of Death" and Jorge Acosta AKA "El Tigre"—both accused in the ""vuelos de la muerte" (death flights), in which detainees were thrown into the sea from helicopters. Both were already serving life terms from a 2011 conviction. An amnesty law for ex-officials passed after the return to democratic rule in the 1980s was overturned by Argentina's Supreme Court in 2005. The military regime is believed to have "disappeared" some 30,000 suspected leftists.

ESMA

  1. Argentina hands down sentences in ESMA torture case

    The Tribunal Oral Federal 5 de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires sentenced multiple people involved in the Escuela de Mecánia de la Armada (ESMA) case on Feb. 18. ESMA was the top clandestine detention center in Argentina during the last military dictatorship. It was the site of more than 800 crimes including torture, kidnapping, and murder.

    This is the fourth case related to ESMA but the first time that these eight people are tried for their crimes. The case began in 2018 with 10 accused persons, although only eight sentences were handed down. The remaining two were not sentenced; one passed away in 2019 and the other convinced the court to separate his case, with a new trial expected to commence soon.

    Two military officials and a police officer were sentenced to life in prison for rights violations. The court found that four others were accomplices and sentenced them to 15 years. Finally, one miliary man was sentenced to six years; the court found he had only participated in the kidnapping of one person. (Jurist)

  2. US court convicts Argentine naval officer in massacre

    A jury in Miami on July 1 unanimously found an Argentine ex-naval officer responsible for the so-called Trelew Massacre of 1972.

    According to the 2020 complaint, in 1972 Bravo along with three other naval officers woke up 19 political prisoners detained at a Trelew naval base. The officers lined them up against a wall and “opened fire on the unarmed prisoners,”┬áas a result of which 16 of the prisoners died and the remaining were seriously injured. The three survivors were later killed by the military.

    The lawsuit was brought by the families of three who were killed and that of one of the three survivors of the incident. Bravo, who has been in the US since 1973 and is presently a US citizen, was sued under the Torture Victim Protection Act that allows US residents to be prosecuted for torture and extrajudicial killings committed outside of the US.

    As this was a civil lawsuit, Bravo has been ordered to pay more than $20 million in damages to the four families. Bravo is the last of the four officers to be found guilty for his role in the killings as the others were in 2012 found guilty and sentenced to life in Argentina.

    The plaintiffs seek for Bravo to be extradited to Argentina in order to be tried there. (Jurist)

  3. Argentine ex-officers sentenced for ‘dirty war’ crimes

    A court in Argentina has sentenced 19 former military officers to long prison terms for crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorships in 1976-83. The crimes included forced disappearances, murder, torture and kidnapping of children. More than 300 victims were named in abuses committed at the notorious Campo de Mayo detention center.┬áAmong those sentenced was Gen.┬áSantiago Riveros, who has been previously convicted for other human rights violations. He received a life sentence after being found guilty of more than 100 crimes. (BBC News, El Pais)