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Argentina's 'disappeared:' Justice at last or reneging on amnesty?

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Today, however, freed from the pressure of military rebellion, Latin countries are revisiting these deals.

Chile and Argentina are marching ahead with wide-reaching prosecutions. Through a series of judicial opinions, Chile’s amnesty law – decreed in 1978 by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who ousted socialist President Salvador Allende in 1973 – has been rendered inapplicable. Approximately 300 officials have been convicted in recent years, and scores more await trial.

Argentina’s amnesty laws – passed in 1986 and 1987, after the military rebelled when the young democratic government began prosecuting the military’s highest authorities – were revoked by the Congress in 2003 and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2005. Fifty-five officials from Argentina’s dictatorship – which ruled from 1976 to 1983 and “disappeared” as many as 30,000 people during the country’s so-called “dirty war” – have been convicted, and 625 others are being investigated.

According to Juan Méndez, an Argentine-born visiting professor at the Washington College of Law at American University, who has also served on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Chile and Argentina are an “example to the world.” He says they are fulfilling their duty under international law to prosecute crimes committed by the state and are finally providing victims with a remedy after denying them all judicial recourse for decades.

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