Tuesday, May 04, 2010

More justice for disappearance

Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina's military junta waged a campaign of violence against dissidents, students, and unionists known as the "Dirty War". Thousands were disappeared, tortured and murdered by government death squads, their bodies flung from the backs of planes over the Atlantic Ocean to prevent any evidence from coming to light. When democracy was restored, former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder for these crimes. He was pardoned after serving less than five years, but the pardon was overturned by the courts last year. Now, he is being prosecuted for an additional 49 cases of kidnapping, torture, and murder.

While Videla is already in jail, this isn't pointless. An important part of such trials is to uncover and acknowledge the truth: that people were disappeared, tortured, and murdered, and that this was illegal and part of a crime against humanity. An additional life sentence would make no practical difference to Videla. But recognising his crimes as crimes would make a world of difference to his victims and the world.