December 21, 2014
S. Court considers house arrest for dictatorship-era criminal
The Supreme Court is willing to revise its policy towards granting home detention to people convicted for crimes committed during the last military dictatorship.The members of the top court yesterday confirmed that a former military officer convicted for the murder of a lawyer can serve his sentence under house arrest.
During the last three meetings, the justices have been discussing a hot issue: should repressors with health problems or above 70 years of age serve their sentences in home detention?
Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti along with Justices Elena Highton de Nolasco, Juan Carlos Maqueda and Enrique Petracchi yesterday rejected an appeal filed by prosecutors requesting not to send Roque Ítalo Pappalardo to house arrest. With the justices’ refusal, a ruling from the Criminal Cassation Court was confirmed and Pappalardo will serve his sentence in his residence.
Pappalardo was sentenced to life in 2012 for the murder of lawyer Carlos Moreno, abducted in Olavarría, Buenos Aires province, in April 1977. Moreno, who defended workers at the cement manufacturer Loma Negra, was taken to a house in the city of Tandil, from where he escaped but was found by the repressors and executed. His wife was able to recover his body in the city of La Plata in 1977. Moreno’s abduction was a turning point in the city located in the centre of Buenos Aires province, which was last month stunned by the appearance of Estela Barnes de Carlotto’s grandson.
Pappalardo has suffered from heart illnesses and in 2012 he requested to be transferred to BA City’s Central Military Hospital for treatment.
Sources from the Supreme Court said that the members of the tribunal have been discussing this issue because they have several similar requests to analyze, though they did not issue a formal opinion yesterday. Sources from the tribunal told the Herald that Supreme Court Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni as well as Carlos Fayt — who did not sign yesterday’s resolution — agreed with their colleague’s concern.
According to sources, more people have been convicted for crimes against humanity over the past few years and some of them are above 70 years old, the age stipulated to file a request for house arrest. There is also a trend among prosecutors and members of the public court, who believe repressors have to serve time in an ordinary jail.
The court has 12 cases similar to Pappalardo’s, including a request filed by former general Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, who was the head of the Third Army Corps during the dictatorship, which commanded the repression in 10 provinces in the central and northern part of the country.
A leading case?
According to sources, the justices will take a request filed by Mariano Rafael Braga, a repressor convicted last year during the first trial held in Jujuy province, to issue an opinion on this particular situation. Prosecutors involved in the case explained to the Herald that Braga filed several requests for home confinement because he suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
In 2013, the Supreme Court examined a request filed by Jorge Olivera Róvere, who was the main officer responsible for the clandestine detention centres which operated in BA City during the last military regime and was convicted in 2009 for crimes against humanity. Last year, the justices urged lower courts to make clear the grounds on which they rejected a request for home detention.
As soon as the Attorney General’s office issues an opinion in Braga’s case, the members of the court will be able to start discussing the topic, which could establish new standards for people convicted for crimes against humanity. Months ago, Lorenzetti held a ceremony to make it clear that the trials for crimes against humanity will not end next year when a new government is elected.
As the Supreme Court is discussing this issue, a controversy emerged when it was revealed that former judge Otilio Romano was about to file a request for house arrest. Romano, a former judge from Mendoza province who fled to Chile to avoid being taken to court, is 71-years-old and is under arrest at the San Felipe penitentiary unit, where he says he cannot be treated for diabetes, a claim that was dismissed by authorities and human rights organizations.
Activists yesterday gathered outside Mendoza’s federal courthouse to demonstrate and to claim that Romano was planning a new escape. In 2012, the former judge fled to Chile and last year was extradited to the country. He is currently standing trial for crimes against humanity in that province.