Former Argentinean President sentenced to 25 Years’ Imprisonment

After months of hearings and hundreds of witness statements, Reynaldo Benito Bignone, who was President Argentina during the final phase of the military dictatorship (1982-1983), was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment on 20. April 2010. Bignone was charged with torture as a crime against humanity for offences carried out in the torture centre Campo de Mayo. The federal court in San Martin, Argentina has also sentenced five further high ranking officials from dictatorship to imprisonment. The ECCHR has previously reported on the trials.   

Since 2 November 2009 the trial before the Federal Court in San Martin has focused on cases of torture in Campo de Mayo. Between 1976 and 1980 the military centre Campo de Mayo, located about 30 Kilometers from Buenos Aires, was divided into four different secret prisons and torture centers. It was controlled by the army command of the military institute ("Comando de Institutos Militares") which was led at that time by four generals: Santiago Omar Riveros, José Montes, Cristino Nicolaides and Reynaldo Bignone.

Bignone pleaded before the court that he was immune from criminal prosecution as he is a former head of state. Instead, the Argentinean Federal Court applied international humanitarian law and he was convicted of torture and mistreatment of prisoners of war, abduction and construction of illegal prisons as crimes against humanity. According to this system immunity cannot be used as a means of defense against charges of crimes against humanity such as torture. Bignone (81) has been under house arrest for many years, but now he must serve his sentence in a regular prison. In addition, Bignone is charged with crimes committed in the hospital Posadas de Haedo. This case is still pending before Federal Court Nr.6.

In the same proceedings into crimes committed at Campo de Mayo further responsible members of the Argentinean Junta have been sentenced. Santiago Omar Riveros, the former head of the military institute and leader of Zone IV of the torture center, and Fernando Exequiel Verplaetsen, former head of the secret service in Campo de Mayo, have both been sentenced to 25 years. Carlos Alberto Roque Tepedino, Osvaldo Jorge Garcia and Eugenio Guanabens Perelló, who all previously worked in top positions in the torture centre have received sentences of up to 20 years. Like Bignone, Verplaetsen, Tepedino and Perelló have been under house arrest in Argentina Riveros, Verplaetsen and Garcia were also sentenced to life imprisonment by an Italian court in 2009 for the murder of 15 year old Floreal Avellaneda and the torture and abduction of her mother.

Among the 130 witnesses and plaintiffs is Hector Ratto, a former employee at Mercedes Benz in González Catán (Buenos Aires). Ratto witnessed the illegal imprisonment and abduction of some of his colleagues, which was conducted with the cooperation of managers from the corporation. On 12. November 2009 the ECCHR presented an expert legal opinion in a different case for which Hector Ratto was appearing as a witness. The opinion dealt with the duty of states to investigate corporate responsibility, in this case Mercedez- Benz, for human rights violations.

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  • Argentina
  • Bignone
  • Campo de Mayo
  • imprisonment
  • military dictatorship
  • torture center

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