Argentine police chaplain goes on trial for alleged rights abuses in 'dirty war'

[JURIST] The trial of former police chaplain Christian Von Wernich [Trial Watch profile] began Thursday in Argentina [JURIST news archive], where the Roman Catholic priest is alleged to have been involved in human rights abuses including torture and murder during Argentina's "dirty war" [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive] from the late 1970's to early 1980s. Von Wernich has been accused of visiting detention centers and pressuring torture victims into talking. Numerous security precautions, including metal detectors, barricades, and additional security cameras, have been taken out of concern for the 120 witnesses expected to testify against him. Soon after a former police official was sentenced to life imprisonment last year, a 77 year old key witness disappeared [JURIST report] and has not been seen since.

During the "dirty war," Argentina's military dictatorship and police force tortured and killed leftist dissidents, allegedly with tacit support from the Catholic Church. Approximately 11,000 to 30,000 detainees were killed or went missing in what at least one Argentinian court has called a genocide. Reuters has more.

 

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