Argentina sentences 10 people to life in prison for crimes in the dictatorship

posted on 07/07/2022 15:01

In front of the hospital at the Campo de Mayo military complex, a plaque was installed to remember the victims of the regime. “To the fearless comrades who disappeared in Campo de Mayo, present now and forever,” reads the memorial. – (Credit: Hijos Capital – Twitter/Reproduction)

After four years of trial, the federal court of San Martín, in Buenos Aires, sentenced, on Wednesday (6/7), former commander Santiago Omar Riveros and nine other defendants to life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for ex-soldiers refers to crimes committed against humanity in the Campo de Mayo military complex during Argentina’s last dictatorship, between 1976 and 1983.

The convictions were celebrated with applause from victims and activists for the historic reparation of crimes committed in the military regime, which, in the trial, registered at least 323 victims of illegal deprivation of liberty and the imposition of torture. “The facts object of this process are against humanity, that is, imprescriptible”, said the president of the court when reading the sentence.

After hearing more than 700 witnesses, who exposed the routine and repressive functioning of the military camp, the judges issued the sentence that made the trial one of the biggest against humanity in the country’s history. Another nine people were sentenced. Penalties range from four to 22 years in prison.

The crimes tried were committed in Campo de Mayo, the largest complex of the Argentine Army, with 5 thousand hectares, located less than 30 kilometers from the Argentine capital. There, during the dictatorship that began in 1976, there was a kind of clandestine detention and torture center, as well as a maternity hospital that delivered children to kidnapped women. The military appropriated the babies, who were given a new identity—with no connection to the mother.

According to the newspaper The CountryArgentine human rights organizations estimate that at least 4,000 people were detained in Campo de Mayo, of whom less than 1% survived.

The first to be convicted was former commander of the Military Institutes Santiago Omar Riveros, 98 years old. He was the superior who had under control all the criminal actions committed within the Campo de Mayo. Santiago was found guilty of crimes against more than 200 victims, including torture and illegal imprisonment.

The former soldier also received, on Monday (4/7), the maximum sentence in trial over the existence of “death flights” that departed from Campo de Mayo with detainees who were thrown from the aircraft alive into the Rio de la Plata. He is under house arrest for health reasons.

Luis Del Valle Arce, Carlos Javier Tamini and Mario Domínguez, employees of Defense Zone IV, were also sentenced to life imprisonment, along with former head of military area 420, Luis Sadi Pepa. Finally, the last four defendants sentenced to the maximum sentence were Carlos Somoza, Francisco Agostino, Luis Britos and Miguel Conde.

Condemnations celebrated by protesters

Outside, a crowd of people watched the sentence being read. Most of them were women members of the NGO Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, which seeks to locate and promote the reunion of babies kidnapped by the military for the women who gave birth in Campo de Mayo.

The group was moved by the outcome of the trial, the largest since the annulment of pardons and impunity laws against participants in the military regime, made in 2006. Among the 323 victims, 14 were pregnant women whose children were appropriated by the military. Two of them were kidnapped in August 1977 and, to this day, they are looking for the whereabouts of their children, with the help of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo.

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