April 16, 2014
More civilians convicted of dictatorship crimes
A record number of sentences seen last year and it is expected to rise in 2014
Since the reopening of trials for cases of crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship, 2013 was a landmark year that saw the largest number of civilians convicted of crimes committed during that era.
The convictions illustrate how it was not just the military and police officers who are to blame for the crimes committed during that time — civilian actors also played a role. Prosecutors are increasingly saying tha this is time to move away from a focus on military officers to examine the role that business leaders played during that time to facilitate the crimes.
Last year, the majority of civilians convicted were linked to cases of snatched babies.
In San Martín, Buenos Aires province, a court convicted Roberto Cándido Duarte and Margarita Noemí Fernández of the appropriation of Gabriel Matías Cevasco. He was only three months old when his mother was abducted by the dictatorship’s death squads.
According to his appropriators, a policewoman handed the baby to the couple, who told him he had been adopted when he was six years old. In 2000, Cevasco recovered his real identity and met his father, who was living in Brazil and looking for him along with his aunt.
The same court also convicted Aída Blandina Pizzoni as the appropriator of Martín Guillermo Amari-lla Molfino, who was born in 1980 in the hospital that operated in the military garrison of Campo de Mayo, one of the biggest detention camps in Buenos Aires province.
In Buenos Aires City, a court convicted José Ernesto Bacca, Cristina Gloria Mariñelarena and Inés Graciela Lugones for the appropriation of Liliana Pereya and Eduardo Cagnola’s son. Both were abducted in Mar del Plata and Liliana was taken to the ESMA to give birth to her baby. The couple was disappeared and their son recovered his real identity in 2008. Bacca and Mariñelarena brought up the boy and Lugones was the one who handed the baby over to the snatchers.
La Plata’s Federal Court Number 1 convicted María Mercedes Elichalt for appropriating Elena Gallinari Abinet, the first granddaughter born in captivity whose identity was recovered by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. Her appropriator, Domingo Luis Madrid, was a former Buenos Aires province police officer who took the girl born in an unknown clandestine detention centre and registered the baby girl as his daughter.
Silvia Kirilosky — who was also convicted last year — was the doctor who forged the birth certificate. The judges considered that those offences were part of the genocide carried out by the Argentine dictatorship. They quoted the UN Convention on Genocide, which establishes that somebody is perpetrating a genocide when forcibly transferring children from one group to another.
María Francisco Morillo, Catalina de Sanctis Ovando’s appropriator was also convicted last year. Catalina was born in Campo de Mayo and her appropriation is linked to the role played by the Christian Family Movement (MFC).
Last year, a member of that group was indicted and arrested for allegedly having taken part in the appropriation of another girl born in Campo de Mayo. The woman recovered her identity in 2008. She is María Teresa Trotta and Roberto Castelli’s second daughter.
Business was not only
Last year, no business leaders were taken to court but several judges began to investigate the link between abductions, clandestine detention centres and enterprises.
In May, three former Ford Motor Co. executives were charged with crimes against humanity committed in 1976 during the last military dictatorship. The executives were accused of targeting 24 union workers, who were then kidnapped.
Judge Alicia Vence said that a clandestine detention centre operated at the back of the plant located in Pacheco, Buenos Aires province. In her decision, she also stated that human rights were not only violated by state agents but also by companies, which raised some concern among activists.
Meanwhile, in August, Salta’s Federal Court confirmed the indictment of Carlos Pedro Blaquier, the owner of Ledesma sugar mill in Jujuy province, for crimes against humanity committed during the last dictatorship. Blaquier, an iconic businessman linked to the military regime, expected to appear before judges in the near future but will not be remanded in custody while he awaits trial.
Carolina Varsky and Jorge Auat, who head the Attorney General’s Office for Crimes against Humanity, said that they wanted to sponsor investigations that will help unveil the “social complicity” in the crimes committed during the dictatorship, which is a demand human rights organizations have long made.
Last year, pro-Kirchnerite journalist Horacio Verbitsky was one of the strongest voices in favour of investigating the role of business leaders in dictatorship-era crimes and he called for a truth commission to investigate the crimes involving companies during the years of state terrorism.
So far, investigating and determining the responsibilities of business leaders during the military regime is largely pending in the trials that are currently going on throughout the country. When that happens it would mark a second stage to find out the truth about what really happened during the military dictatorship, following the nullification of the Due Obedience and Full Stop Laws in 2003.