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Argentina ex-general given life sentence for 'Dirty War' killing

[JURIST] Former Argentine general Santiago Omar Riveros was convicted of human rights abuses Wednesday and sentenced to life in prison for the killing of 15-year-old Floreal Avellaneda and the detention of his mother 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. Riveros, who commanded the Campo de Mayo military base near Buenos Aires, was found guilty [Pagina 12 report, in Spanish] of involvement in the 1976 abduction and torture of Avellaneda and his mother in order to find out the whereabouts of his father. Avellaneda's body eventually washed up on the Uruguayan shore, and his mother was detained for three years. Four others were sentenced [La Nacion report, in Spanish] to terms of 8-25 years in connection with the abductions, torture, and killing.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of Argentina [official website, in Spanish] ruled that individuals cannot be required to submit blood samples [JURIST report] to test whether they were abducted as children during the Dirty War. Spanish police announced last month that they had arrested [JURIST report] Jorge Alberto Soza, wanted in Argentina on torture charges stemming from his service in the police force during the dictatorship. 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. Last 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. In July 2008, an Argentine court sentenced Menendez [JURIST report] 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 [JURIST report] 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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