An Argentine judicial panel [official site] on Wednesday sentenced [ruling, PDF, in Spanish] 29 former officials to life in prison, and 19 to between 8-25 years for murder and torture during the junta’s 1976-1983 “Dirty War” [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive].
The sentencing concluded a five-year trial and represented Argentina’s largest verdict to date [La Nación report, in Spanish] for crimes against humanity. Collectively, the 48 defendants were charged with the deaths of 789 victims. The prosecution called more than 800 witnesses to make their case. Additionally, the court acquitted six former officials.
The crimes were committed at the Higher School of Mechanics of the Navy (ESMA), which was used by the junta to illegally detain, torture and kill roughly 5,000 people. During the “Dirty War” an estimated 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or “disappeared” in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents. ESMA is now a Human Rights museum and memorial [official website] to the atrocities of the junta.
The ability of the court to sentence former officials is the result of a 2005 Argentina Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruling that denied amnesty to military figures [JURIST report] who committed crimes during the military dictatorship.