An Argentine court on Oct. 26 sentenced 12 former military and police officers to life in prison for crimes against humanity. The defendants were convicted of various crimes that took place in the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), which was used by the former military dictatorship as a torture chamber. Argentina’s military junta used the location throughout the dictatorship’s 1976-1983 “Dirty War,” during which more than 13,000 people were killed. Alfredo Astiz AKA the “Angel of Death” was one of the officers that received a life sentence. Astiz is a former navy spy for the dictatorship who was convicted of the murder of two French nuns, a journalist and three human rights activists. Four additional defendants were also convicted, with their sentences ranging from 18 to 25 years in prison.
The ability of the court to sentence former officials is the result of a 2005 Argentina Supreme Court ruling that denied amnesty to military figures who committed crimes during the military dictatorship. Argentina is not alone in its decision to allow these types of prosecutions. On Oct. 17, Uruguay‘s legislature voted to repeal the 1986 amnesty law which prevented investigations and prosecutions of military junta officials during the 1973-1985 dictatorship. Proponents of the law’s revocation argue that the amnesty law violates the international human rights principles and treaties signed and ratified by Uruguay. In addition, they claim it is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Convention of Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. Rights groups have also urged Brazil to revoke its amnesty law.
From Jurist, Oct. 27. Used with permission.