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Former Argentina military officers sentenced to life for crimes against humanity

Two former military officers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for committing crimes against humanity at an Argentine prison. The officers, along with five others, were charged and convicted of various crimes [La Nacion report, in Spanish] including murder, kidnapping and torture that took place at El Vesubio [Nunca Mas backgrounder, in Spanish], a notorious prison operated by the country's former dictatorship. Argentina's military junta controlled the prison from 1976-83 throughout the dictatorship's "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive], during which over 13,000 people were killed. The seven men were charged in February with a total of 156 crimes against humanity. Col. Pedro Alberto Duran, the prison's supervisor who died during the trial, also allegedly raped female prisoners regularly and was charged with 14 counts of homicide, among other accusations. Gen. Hector Gamen and Col. Hugo Pascarelli were given life sentences, while the others were sentenced to 18-22 years in prison.

A number of investigations have been initiated and cases brought to trial as a result of a 2005 Argentina Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruling that denied amnesty to military figures [HRW report] who committed crimes during the military dictatorship. An Argentine federal court in April sentenced [JURIST report] former general Eduardo Cabanillas to life in prison for his involvement in the Dirty War. Former general Luciano Benjamin Menendez, already serving a life sentence, was sentenced to an additional life sentence [JURIST report] in March for the attack and murder of five urban guerrilla group members. Also in March, an Argentine court commenced the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] and Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive] for allegedly overseeing a systematic plan to steal babies [JURIST report] born to political prisoners. In December, Videla was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity. Videla's trial commenced in July after he was charged with an additional 49 counts [JURIST reports] of murder, kidnapping and torture last May following the identification of 40 bodies in Buenos Aires in 2009. Also last May, 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.

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