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Argentina ex-president testifies now-annulled 'Dirty War' amnesty laws needed

[JURIST] Former Argentine President Raul Alfonsin [Wikipedia profile] has testified that amnesty laws preventing prosecution for human rights abuses during the so-called Dirty War [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] of the late 1970s and early 80s helped to prevent rebellion during the transition from military rule to democracy. Nevertheless, Alfonsin said he "felt pained in enacting the laws" and was "relieved" when the Argentine Supreme Court struck them down [JURIST report] last year. Alfonsin, president of Argentina [JURIST news archive] from 1983 to 1989, appeared as a defense witness Wednesday at the trial of Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz [Project Disappeared profile], former chief investigator of the Buenos Aires province police, who is charged with murder, kidnapping and torture in connection with the disappearances of six people during the Dirty War. At least 13,000 dissidents are estimated to have "disappeared" during the military junta's campaign against its domestic opponents from 1976 to 1983.

Although Etchecolatz in June became the first former official to stand trial since the amnesty laws were annulled [JURIST report], the first conviction was obtained earlier this month [JURIST report] when a former police officer was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his involvement in the disappearance of a couple and their baby daughter. The amnesty laws, known as the Full Stop Law [text] and the Law of Due Obedience [text], were passed in the 1980s by the democratically elected government that replaced the junta and were meant to prevent rebellions among the military. AP has more. From Buenos Aires, La Nacion has local coverage, in Spanish.

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