The Federal Oral Court of Argentina has convicted former police officer Miguel Etchecolatz, along with 15 other people, for crimes against humanity committed in the clandestine center of the San Justo Investigation Brigade, a sentence that supposes the eighth life sentence of one of the most representative figures of the repression of the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1983).
Etchecolatz, general commissioner of the police of the province of Buenos Aires during the years of repression, has attended the sentence from the Campo de Mayo prison, from where he has been found guilty as co-author of the illegitimate deprivation of liberty of 54 victims , aggravated by the violence and the imposition of torture and by being politically persecuted, seven of whom were murdered.
When ruling that they are crimes against humanity, the court has considered that the acts of those convicted as imprescriptible, and has sentenced them for the kidnappings and torture that took place in the clandestine center of the Buenos Aires Police Investigation Brigade in San Justo as part of the premises of Police Station 1 of the Buenos Aires Police.
After just over two years of trial, the judges have also convicted the accused of kidnappings followed by death and sexual abuse suffered by people who passed through that clandestine center.
The document presented by the prosecution also detailed that San Justo supposed “a center of appropriation and distribution of infants and children, since in the Brigade there were detained disappeared pregnant women who later gave birth in captivity and children who remained kidnapped together with their parents “, as stated in ‘Página12’.
Furthermore, the document qualifies it as a “concentration and extermination camp” characterized by “enjoying absolute impunity during its period of validity.”
Moreover, “even after having finished its operation as a concentration camp, it managed to keep a cloak of intrigue on itself that allowed it, until relatively recently, to go unnoticed and not be socially labeled.”
Among the defendants are members of the Buenos Aires Police, the Army and the civilian government, of which ten have received life sentences, another six have been sentenced to 25 years in prison and one has been acquitted.
The defendants faced a total of 84 cases of kidnapping, torture and murder, which has been added in the course of the investigation crimes for sexual abuse. Nineteen of the 84 victims who passed through that clandestine detention center are still missing.
Along with the conviction, the judge’s sentence urges the authorities to dismantle the place where the clandestine center of torture and repression operated to turn it into a “Space of Memory”, something that the survivors, families of victims and social organizations demand.
After the sentence was made public, the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo collective has issued a statement assuring that “reaching the sentence clearly shows that the Argentine people have memory. That we follow the path of the Mothers and Grandmothers. That they have not defeated us. That the ideals of the 30,000 are more alive and in force than ever “.
For his part, Etchecolatz, upon hearing the judgment of the judges, has stood up to show a white poster that he wore around his neck that read “Mr. Jesus, if they condemn me, it is for having defended your cause.”
Human Rights organizations in Argentina number 30,000 people arrested and disappeared during the dictatorship, in which Etchecolatz, as director of investigations of the Buenos Aires Police between 1976 and 1979, was in charge of organizing “task forces” that kidnapped and tortured thousands of people to death in the so-called “Camps Circuit”, formed by 29 clandestine detention centers in Buenos Aires.
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