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Argentina implements law bringing military under tighter civilian control

[JURIST] The Argentina Ministry of Defense (MOD) [official website, in Spanish] announced Friday the implementation of a new law containing provisions aimed at bringing the military and its justice system under increased civilian control. The legislation was signed into law last August. The law is seen by many [AP report] as a response to the return of democracy and the rise of independent political institutions following widespread human rights violations during the country's military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, known as the "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Included in the law are provisions [MOD press release, in Spanish] that eliminate the death penalty, move trials against service members for offenses to civilian courts, and amend the military legal disciplinary system.

It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" during the military dictatorship's campaign against suspected dissidents. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases. In July, an Argentine court sentenced former general Luciano Benjamin Menendez and four others to life in prison for the 1977 kidnapping, torture, and killing of four political dissidents during the "Dirty War," and in August, a court convicted Mendendez and another former general [JURIST reports] and sentenced them to life terms for kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Peronist politician Guillermo Vargas Aignasse in 1976 during the coup that brought the military to power.

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