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Spain police arrest Argentina 'Dirty War' fugitive accused of torture

[JURIST] Spanish police announced Friday that they have arrested Jorge Alberto Soza, wanted in his home country of Argentina on torture charges stemming from his service in the police force during the country's military dictatorship. From 1976 to 1983, a period known as the "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive], an estimated 20,000-30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a campaign against suspected dissidents. The elderly Soza, who had been living in Spain for nearly two decades, was arrested [El Pais report, in Spanish] earlier this month after an Argentine court filed an arrest warrant an extradition request with the Spanish Foreign Ministry [official website, in Spanish]. Soza is being held in Spain while he awaits extradition to Argentina.

In February, Argentine defense officials announced the implementation of a new law [JURIST report] aimed at increasing civilian control over the military and its justice system. The law was seen by many as a response to the return of democracy and the rise of independent political institutions following the widespread human rights violations of the Dirty War era. In February, an Argentine court suspended its decision to release up to 20 suspects who are accused of committing human rights violations during the Dirty War after releasing the men pending bail [JURIST report]. In August, a court convicted former general Luciano Benjamin 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. Last July, an Argentine court sentenced Menendez and four others to life in prison for the 1977 kidnapping, torture, and killing of four political dissidents during the Dirty War. In March 2008, Argentine politician and former police chief Luis Abelardo Patti was arrested for crimes allegedly committed during the period. 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.

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