Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison for crimes against humanity during Argentina's "Dirty War" [JURIST news archive]. The Federal Court of Cordoba [official website, in Spanish] found Videla guilty [La Nacion report, in Spanish] of human rights violations when he served as military chief of Argentina from 1976 to 1981. Many of the two dozen former military and police officials, including retired general Luciano Benjamin Menendez [Project Disappeared profile, in Spanish; JURIST news archive], were tried and sentenced to life prison terms along with Videla. Videla accepted responsibility for his actions during the dictatorship, but denied that he had committed human rights violations. In 1985, Videla was convicted and sentenced of similar crimes, but served only five years of the life sentence before being granted amnesty by former president Carlos Menem [BBC profile]. Videla will serve his sentence in a civilian prison.
Videla's trial commenced in July after he was charged with an additional 49 counts [JURIST reports] of murder, kidnapping and torture in May following the identification of 40 bodies in Buenos Aires last year. In 2006, a federal judge ruled that the presidential pardon was unconstitutional [JURIST report], allowing criminal charges to be brought against the former dictator. Videla, who is now 85, is also facing charges in Italy, Spain, France and Germany [JURIST reports] involving the deaths of their citizens during the Dirty War. Videla has been in prison since 2008 while an investigation is underway for his role in the abduction of children born to political prisoners and forced disappearance victims during the Dirty War. A court revoked the house arrest conditions he had been granted in 1998 when the investigation began. During the period Videla was head of the military junta, an estimated 90,000 civilians were killed or disappeared.