Saturday, 2 April 2011

Argentina: 4 human rights abusers sentenced for Operation Condor

Four human rights abusers have received long sentences in the conclusion to an important case in Argentina, which impacts on many other countries as well.

Former Argentine General Eduardo Cabanillas has been sentenced to life in prison for his role running the clandestine detention centre known as "Automotores Orletti" in Buenos Aires. He was found guilty on charges of illegal imprisonment, torture and homicide involving 65 people. Former intelligence agents Honorio Martinez and Eduardo Ruffo were sentenced to 25 years each, and former military intelligence officer Raul Guglielminetti was given 20 years.

This is important partly because of the length of the sentences handed down, which in all cases except that of Guglielminetti matched what the prosecution has asked for.

It is also a key case because of its exposure of the workings of Operation Condor, the intelligence agreement between various authoritarian states in Latin America which funtioned with the knowledge and backing of the USA. The majority of victims in Automotores Orletti were not Argentine; many of them were Uruguayans who had fled from the dictatorship in their own country, thinking they would be safe across the border. Operation Condor meant that military governments did not have to limit their programme of repression to their own country but could coordinate it with neighbours. Its aim was to silence the opposition by sending teams into other countries to track, monitor and kill dissidents.

The story made international news:
Former Argentine Gen Eduardo Cabanillas jailed (BBC)
"It is a glorious and historical day that we are living and that the 'mothers' didn't think we'd live to see. This is legal justice," said Tati Almeida of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an Argentine human rights group.
Argentina: Ex-agents sentenced in Operation Condor (AP) - This is a generally good article, until the last sentence, where it states that official estimates put the number of disappeared at 3,000. I have never seen a figure less than about 9,000 anywhere - CONADEP had about that many specifically documented cases. I've no idea where 3,000 comes from, and it surely seems to cast doubt on the far higher figure of 30,000 used by the human rights organisation. The BBC accepts the 30,000 estimate without qualification.

In Argentina, Pagina/12 ran a lovely front cover yesterday highlighting the celebrations of human rights activists.

Una condena que atraviesa fronteras

See also
Condenan a ex agentes argentinos por Orletti (La Repubica, Uruguay)

Finally, in this video from last year, you can see some of the witnesses to the trial talking about their testimony (in Spanish):

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