Argentina's Poder Judicial de la Nacion [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday sentenced [opinion, in Spanish] two former Argentine dictators to a total of 65 years in prison for their involvement in the systematic kidnapping of babies from leftist activists detained and killed during the nation's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Jorge Videla [JURIST news archive], who ruled from 1976 to 1981, was sentenced to 50 years while Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive], who ruled from 1982 to 1983, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Several other military officials involved in the kidnappings also received sentences of up to 40 years. Detainees gave birth in captivity without being given the opportunity to see the babies, who were given to soldiers or to friends of soldiers, while the mothers were forced to jump out of military planes over the sea. Videla, who is already sentenced to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity, had argued that the women were members of terrorist groups and that they used the children as shields. Several rights groups such as Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo [advocacy website, in Spanish] welcomed Thursday's decision but expressed their disappointment for the mild sentence, stating that they will continue to work for harsher sentence against the perpetrators.
The case against the two dictators commenced [JURIST report] in March 2011. They were accused in 34 separate cases of infants who were taken from mothers held in clandestine torture and detention centers, the Navy Mechanics School [backgrounder, in Spanish] and Campo de Mayo army base. The case was initially brought by Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo 14 years ago against five military judges and a doctor who attended to the detainees. In addition to this case, Argentina has initiated several proceedings against those responsible for war crimes during the war. In June 2010, an Argentine federal court began to hear [JURIST report] its case against five ex-military officials allegedly responsible for the death of 65 left-wing activists during the war. A month earlier Argentine authorities arrested [JURIST report] former secret service agent Miguel Angel Furci on charges of human rights abuses.