Argentina court begins trial over 'Dirty War' baby thefts

[JURIST] An Argentine court on Monday commenced the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] and Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive] for allegedly overseeing a systematic plan to steal babies born to political prisoners during the nation's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The two are accused [AP report] in 34 separate cases of infants who were taken from mothers held in clandestine torture and detention centers, the Navy Mechanics School [backgrounder, in Spanish] and Campo de Mayo army base. The case was opened 14 years ago at the request of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo [advocacy website, in Spanish], and includes as defendants five military judges and a doctor who attended to the detainees. The trial is expected to hear 370 witnesses and last up to a year. With the help of the Grandmothers' DNA database, 102 people born to vanished detainees have recovered their true identities.

Argentina continues to prosecute those accused of committing human rights abuses during the Dirty War. In December, Videla was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity. In June, trial proceedings were commenced for five ex-military officials allegedly responsible for the death of 65 left-wing activists [JURIST report]. In May, Argentine authorities arrested [JURIST report] former secret service agent Miguel Angel Furci on charges of human rights abuses. Furci, a former agent of the Secretariat of State Intelligence (SIDE), was charged with 70 kidnappings and the torture of detainees at Orletti. Also in May, the Spanish government extradited [JURIST report] pilot Julio Alberto Poch to Argentina to face trial for his alleged role. Poch was a navy officer at Argentina's Naval Mechanics School, one of the most notorious detention centers of the military dictatorship, and is believed to have piloted flights known as "death flights," which were used to dump the military junta's political opponents into the Plata River and the Atlantic Ocean. In April, a federal court in Argentina sentenced [JURIST report] former president and military general Bignone to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses during his 1982 to 1983 presidency. During the Dirty War, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents.

 

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