Thursday, 23 December 2010

No amnesty for capital crimes: Argentina example

Even dictators will pay for the crimes that they commit sooner or
later. Argentina has shown the way.
Former Argentine Dictator Gets Life in Prison

BUENOS AIRES—Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, on trial
for the first time since the country's Supreme Court rescinded his
amnesty, was sentenced to life in prison by a federal court for the
murder of 31 political prisoners in 1976.

Mr. Videla ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1981 and presided over the so-
called Dirty War in which at least 10,000 people suspected of working
against the regime, and perhaps as many as 30,000, were "disappeared"
and killed, according to historians and human-rights groups.

After the country returned to democracy, Mr. Videla was sentenced in a
landmark 1985 trial to life in prison for abuses committed during his
rule. He served five years before he and other figures from the
dictatorship were pardoned by President Carlos Menem, who said he was
trying to close the book on a divisive era in Argentine history. The
Supreme Court struck down the pardons in 2007, paving the way for new
cases to be brought against officials from the dictatorship.

View Full Image
AFP/Getty Images

Former Argentine general and dictator Jorge Rafael Videla (L) and
former army general Luciano Benjamin Menendez await for their sentence
in the trial for the murder of 31 political prisoners.

Wednesday's sentence was the culmination of a six-month trial in the
city of Cordoba revolving around the case of 31 prisoners suspected of
opposing the regime, who were rousted from their cells and executed
following the coup that brought Mr. Videla to power. A three-judge
panel issued the sentence, which it specified should be served in a
common prison facility, as opposed to in a military jail or under
house arrest.

Mr. Videla, 85 years old, sometimes appeared to doze off during the
trial. He was defiant when he did speak.

"I don't speak of 'Dirty War,' I prefer to speak of 'just war,' " he
said on Tuesday, asserting that his government had implemented a
legitimate defense strategy against leftist guerrilla groups.

He took thinly veiled swipes at the government of President Cristina
Kirchner, who has acted aggressively to bring former officials of the
dictatorship to justice. "The enemies of yesterday achieved their goal
and govern the country and they try to set themselves up as champions
of human rights," Mr. Videla said.

Convicted along with Mr. Videla were 29 other security officials from
the dictatorship, including former Gen. Luciano Benjamin Menendez, who
headed anti-guerrilla operations in a large section of the country.

Write to Matt Moffett at

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