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Argentina to Arrest Former Military Officers

In response to an extradition requested issued by the Spanish courts, an Argentine judge ordered the arrest of 46 former officials responsible for crimes against humanity under the juntas regime of the seventies. 

The Argentine judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral yesterday decided to accept an extradition request issued by his Spanish counterpart, Baltasar Garzon, and submitted 46 capture orders to bring to justice former officials responsible for tortures and assassinations under the dictatorial regime of the seventies. Forty-five are top former military officers, including dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and the navy chief Emilio Massera, as one is civilian with strong links to the killers.

 

The list also includes former navy officer Alfredo Astiz, who assassinated four French nuns in Buenos Aires and was condemned to life imprisonment in France for such crimes. Jorge Isaac Anaya; the elected Major of Tucuman city, Antonio Doming Bussi and the brief Argentine Gov. of the Falkland Island in 1982, Luciano Benjamin Menendez, will also have to appear before the tribunals.

 

In order to crackdown a possible protest from the military, the Argentine Minister of Defense, Jose Pampuro instructed Armed Forces' chiefs to observe judge ruling. President Kirchner, on trip in the US, is pushing to derogate the amnesty laws of the eighties that helped criminals as Astiz to avoid prison. In declarations to the American daily Washington Post, Kirchner promised to open the way for the prosecutions.

 

Judge Garzon is investigating alleged crimes of genocide and torture against Spanish nationals in Argentina under the military junta between 1976 and 1983. However, a decree signed by former President Fernando de la Rua in 2001 blocks extradition on the cases related to human right abuses under the military rule. Kirchner, in turn, is willing to allow justice to takes its own course.  

 

According to estimations made by local and international human rights organizations, up to 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in the Argentine military's campaign against what it called left-wing insurgents. Garzon's request says that "military groups, in connection to police forces, intelligence services and civilians masterminded and carried on a systematic criminal plan" to physically eradicate citizens from 1975 to 1983.

 

Today, some of the junta leaders are under house arrest facing other charges, as the dictator Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981). Emilio Massera, one of the symbols of the illegal repression and disappearing of people, has been in coma for several months and is still under medical control. Thus, it is not clear how he will serve the sentence.

 

More recently, Baltasar Garzon secured the extradition of former Argentine military officer, Ricardo Cavallo, from Mexico to Spain to face charges of genocide and terrorism. The same accusations are waiting for the 46 that could be prosecuted in Spain if extradition formalities go ahead.

 

When Garzon announced his intentions to bring Argentine genocide killers to Spain, his move hit the Argentine Government like a ton of bricks, as since Kirchner took office two months ago, the military made feel its rejection to any modification to the amnesty laws passed in the eighties. However, Kirchner's administration looks decided to give a definitive solution to the problem, but needs time. Sources close to the Government told at that time that the Army was very sensitive to the reviewing of its darkest file and a false step could lead to "an increasing in the level of confrontation".

 

It is expected that Kirchner will overturn the decree that blocks extradition and will leave the file in the hands of the local courts to decide.

 

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