A disastrous episode in Argentine history is being concluded in court. Argentinian justice sentenced ten former soldiers and police officers to life imprisonment on Wednesday for crimes committed under the dictatorship (from 1976 to 1983). They were found guilty of, among other things, homicide, kidnapping, torture and rape. The reading of the court’s unanimous decision was followed by the defendants via video conference, while the courtroom was filled with relatives of victims and members of human rights organizations.

Among the 350 victims were fourteen pregnant women whose children were stolen after birth. In the Campo de Mayo military barracks, the epicenter of these crimes, pregnant women illegally detained gave birth in inhuman conditions before disappearing. The May Square Grandmothers organization estimates that during the dictatorship some 400 babies were born in captivity and released to other parents. Only 130 have regained their original identity.

The list of victims also included many workers and union representatives from factories located in the industrial zone north of Buenos Aires, including car manufacturers Mercedes Benz and the American Ford.

Numerous convictions since 2006

The trial began in 2019 and was largely held remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially there were 22 defendants, but two died during the proceedings. Most had already been convicted in other trials for crimes against humanity.

Former general Santiago Riveros, 98, is the highest ranking officer sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday. He was sentenced on Monday to another life sentence, along with three other soldiers, for his responsibility for the “death flights”, which consisted of throwing drugged detainees into the sea from planes taking off from Campo de Mayo. .

The former president of the military junta Reynaldo Bignone, former commander of this barracks, who died in 2018, had also already been convicted of crimes perpetrated in Campo de Mayo.

Since the 2006 cancellation of amnesty laws, 278 sentences have been handed down for crimes against humanity across the country. They involved 1,070 sentenced people, many of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment.