An Argentine federal court on Thursday commenced trial proceedings for five ex-military officials allegedly responsible for the death of 65 left-wing activists during the nation's 1976-83 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The former dictators are charged with the illegal detention, torture, and murder of detainees at a secret Buenos Aires facility known as Automotores Orletti. The detentions were part of "Operation Condor" [BBC backgrounder], a campaign by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay to round up left-wing dissidents. The defendants allegedly used Orletti, a former auto-body shop, as a front for a tactical operations center [AP report] to extract information from activists during Operation Condor. The men include two former intelligence officers, Honorio Martinez Ruiz and Eduardo Ruffo, former general Eduardo Cabanillas, former colonel Ruben Visuara, and former military intelligence agent Raul Guglielminetti. A sixth man, Vice Commander Nestor Guillamondegui is also also facing charges for the atrocities at Orletti, but his trial has been delayed due to health reasons.
Argentina continues to prosecute those accused of committing human rights abuses during the Dirty War. Last month, Argentine authorities arrested [JURIST report] former secret service agent Miguel Angel Furci on charges of human rights abuses. Furci, a former agent of the Secretariat of State Intelligence (SIDE), was charged with 70 kidnappings and the torture of detainees at Orletti. Also in May, the Spanish government extradited [JURIST report] pilot Julio Alberto Poch to Argentina to face trial for his alleged role. Poch was a navy officer at Argentina's Naval Mechanics School [backgrounder, in Spanish], one of the most notorious detention centers of the military dictatorship, and is believed to have piloted flights known as "death flights," which were used to dump the military junta's political opponents into the Plata River and the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier in May, former Argentine military junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was charged [JURIST report] with an additional 49 counts of murder, kidnapping, and torture for crimes allegedly committed during the Dirty War. In April, a federal court in Argentina sentenced [JURIST report] former president and military general Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive] to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses during his 1982 to 1983 presidency. During the Dirty War, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents.