Friday, October 28, 2011

Justice for torture in Argentina

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. Yesterday, former naval officer Alfredo Astiz was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity for his part in those killings. Astiz worked in an intelligence unit operating from the Naval Mechanical School (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, a notorious torture centre and death camp. He specialised in infiltrating peaceful opposition groups, identifying their leaders, then disappearing, torturing, and murdering them. Among his proven victims were French nuns Alice Domon and LĂ©onie Duquet, and the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group which protested against disappearances. None of these people committed any crime; they were murdered because they spoke out against the crimes of the government and people like Astiz.

Fifteen other former military officers were also jailed for their crimes at ESMA, eleven of them for life. They're not the first, and they won't be the last. Argentina is settling its score with the dictatorship and their torturers, finally providing justice for their victims.