Friday, 11 December 2009

Argentina: ESMA trial to begin

The ESMA 'megatrial' is due to begin at 10am in Argentina today. This is something that human rights activists have been waiting decades for; some of the major military perpetrators still living will be in the dock. No Navy perpetrator has been convicted since the amnesty laws in the 1980s, so this is a hugely symbolic chance for justice.

The turn of the Navy mob

From today, Federal Oral Court 5 will judge Astiz, Acosta, Cavallo, Pernías and Rolón, among other accused from the Navy and security forces, for the crimes against Rodolfo Walsh, the French nuns, the founders of the Mothers [of the Plaza de Mayo] and 79 other victims.
At 10am today, in the basement of Comodoro Py, an Argentine court will begin to judge the 17 repressors from the ESMA, that universal symbol of State terrorism. This will mark the end of a third of a century of impunity, Raúl Alfonsín's laws of forgetting, Carlos Menem's pardons, the resistance of the political, judicial, corporate and religious institutions, and those hundreds of parents who died without seeing justice for their loved ones.
The majority of the abductions, tortures and murders which this trial will consider have been proven since the mid-1980s. The perpetrators have been living in impunity for the past twenty years thanks to the 'Full Stop' and 'Due Obedience' [amnesty] laws. Of the three major cases which are grouped together for the first trial, testimonies A is the most wide-ranging, with 79 victims. A few of them survived. For some, there is proof of their murder. Most were seen in captivity and remain disappeared.

The second part, testimonies B, relates to the crimes against the French nuns and the founders of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, abducted on 8 December 1977, tortured in the ESMA and thrown into the sea on the "death flights". In opposition to the twenty years of impunity are the achievements of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, who identified the victims after finding their bodies buried in unmarked graves in coastal cemeteries.

The third part is called testimonies C and its main actor is the writer and journalist Rodolfo Walsh, terminated by the machine gun of police inspector Weber after resisting abduction with a small pistol. The investigation into the death of Walsh, whose body was seen in the ESMA but was never released to his next of kin, includes questions about the whereabouts of his unfinished book, which the Navy also declined to hand over.
[translation mine]

Here are the accused in full:

La hora de la patota de la Armada (Pagina/12)

The trial will last for months. I will attempt to flag up important testimonies, occurrences, etc but won't be able to follow it on a daily basis. More information can be found on the website of the Centro de informacion judicial (Spanish) and on the blog Causa ESMA (Spanish), as well as in the Argentine media and web sites of human rights organisations.

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