Argentina: rights violators stay in jail

On Dec. 22 the second chamber of Argentina’s federal appeals court confirmed that “there is no medical examination that would justify” releasing Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, the first president of the 1976-1983 military regime, from prison. The ruling upholds an Oct. 10 decision by federal judge Norberto Oyarbide removing Videla from house arrest and sending him to the Campo de Mayo Federal Prison under the supervision of the Federal Penitentiary Service (SPF). Videla is being held on charges that the military regime had a systematic plan to keep pregnant detainees in secret detention centers until they gave birth. The babies were then adopted by military or police families or their friends; the mothers were killed.

The appeals court’s decision came the same day that the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo group announced that it had found another of the adopted children, making a total of 96 identified so far. There are estimates that 400 to 500 babies were adopted in this manner. A total of about 30,000 people disappeared during the seven years of the US-backed military regime.

Less than a week earlier, on Dec. 18, another federal appeals panel ordered the release of 14 people charged with human rights violations during the military regime at the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, including Capt. Alfredo Astiz (“The Blond Angel of Death”). The court based its decision on the fact that the accused were held more than three years without a conviction. Raul Plee, the prosecutor in the case, agreed that the lengthy detention was contrary to Argentine law but asked the court to reconsider because of the likelihood that the men would try to escape. On Dec. 19, following a public outcry about the release, the court suspended its decision. As of Dec. 22, the suspects remained in prison and the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had decided to impeach the judges that ruled for the officers’ release. (La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 23 from correspondent, Dec. 20 from AFP; BBC, Dec. 19; Clarín, Buenos Aires, Dec. 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21

See our last post on Argentina.