Argentina’s Videla convicted of crimes against humanity
[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 December 2010, 11:32 GMT]
Former Argentine military ruler Jorge Videla has been sentenced to life for crimes against humanity committed during the Argentine junta’s murderous "Dirty War" (1976-1983) against left-wing dissidents, reports said. Videla, whose conviction was for the torture and murder of 31 prisoners in 1976, was unrepentant, saying Argentine society had demanded the crackdown to prevent a Marxist revolution. He complained that "terrorists" now ran the country. As she handed down the sentence in the central Argentine city of Cordoba, judge Maria Elba Martinez said: "Videla ... is a manifestation of state terrorism."
Videla is among two dozen defendants - most of them former military and police officials - charged with torture, murder and cover-ups in the deaths of the 31 political prisoners in provincial Cordoba.
Also sentenced to life was former General Luciano Benjamin Menendez, who directed the early war against leftist subversives across much of northern Argentina.
Videla and Menendez accepted responsibility for the crackdown but claimed they had to act as they did to prevent what they considered would be a greater tragedy - the transformation of Argentina from a conservative Christian society to a Marxist state.
Jorge Videla, 85, ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1981 and was considered the architect of the Dirty war, in which up to thirty thousand people, many innocent civilians suspected of leftist sympathy, were murdered or ‘disappeared’ by the military dictatorship.
In the specific case Videla was convicted of, 31 prisoners were pulled from their cells and tortured, and were officially shot "while trying to escape."
Videla’s conviction is the culmination of a year marked by faster progress in trials of members of the armed forces accused of human rights violations committed during the Dirty War.
The number went from "two convictions in 2006 to an unprecedented 150 or so this year, making this the year of trials," Lorena Balardini, with the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), told IPS.