On-Going Trials in Argentina: ESMA

The major case ("mega causa" - Case 14.217/203) concerns crimes committed in the detention and torture center based in the Escuela Mecánica de la Armada (E.S.M.A.) between the 24th of March, 1976, and December 10th, 1983. The oral hearings opened on 11 December 2009 before Federal Court No. 5 (Tribunal Oral Federal nº5) in Buenos Aires. A total of eighteen former military officials, among them Alfredo Astiz, already convicted and sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in absentia in France for the murder of two French nuns, Pablo Velasco,  Miguel Cavalho, who was extradited from Spain, and the leader of task force 3.2.2. Jorge "Tigre" Acosta, face charges of torture, deprivation of liberty, murder and other crimes. Among the victims is author Rodolfo Walsh, as well as the founders of the 'mothers of Plaza de Mayo', Azucena Villaflor and Maria Bianco. Their family members as well as several Argentinean human rights groups are represented in the trial as adjourned parties. During the first two days of trial, the more than 500-pages indictment was presented. First witnesses will give evidence after the court holidays in the beginning of 2010. The judgment is expected for end of 2010.

More information on the opening of the first trial:

More Spanish language information about the major case ESMA can be found here:

More information about all military dictatorship cases can be found here:
http://www.memoriaabierta.org.ar/eng/principal.php (English)
http://www.cij.gov.ar/nota-127-Ciudad-de-Buenos-Aires.html (List of trials in Buenos Aires / Spanish)
http://www.cij.gov.ar/especiales.html (Spanish)
http://www.mpf.gov.ar/ (under derechos humanos / Spanish)
http://www.nuncamas.org/investig/articulo/nuncamas/nmas0001.htm (Spanish)
http://criticadigital.com.ar/impresa/index.php?secc=nota&nid=35562 (Interview Wolfgang Kaleck)
http://www.elargentino.com/nota-70449-Los-juicios-son-un-modelo-para-Europa.html (Interview Wolfgang Kaleck)

Due to different lines of investigation, the main body of this major case is divided as follows:

*Testimonios A: 75 crimes committed, such as torture, illegal deprivation of freedom and assassination. One of the surviving victims of the torture detention is the German citizen Adriana Marcus, who is represented as adjourned party. 

*Testimonios B: File 18.967/03. Including illegal deprivation of freedom, torture, inhuman living conditions, committed from the 8th to the 10th December, 1977, of the following victims: Alicia Ana María María Juana Domon, Renée Leonnie Duquet, Ángela Auad, María Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, Remo Carlos Berardo, Raquel Bulit, Eduardo Gabriel Horane, José Julio Fondevilla, Patricia Cristina Oviedo, María Eugenia Ponce de Bianco, Horacio Aníbal Elbert y Azucena Villaflor de Vicenti.

*Testimonios C: File 18.918/03. Including attempted kidnapping and subsequent disappearance of the author Rodolfo Walsh, as well as the theft of his property and work, on the 25th and 26th of March, 1977.

These are the three main components of the major case against ESMA. Further single trials deal with death flights, in which detainees were thrown out of planes in the Rio de la Plata after being injected with hypnotic Pentothal, expropriation and theft of belongings of the victims, including investigations into Swiss bank accounts, disappearances and deprivation of liberty. Many of the victims are still missing.

More Spanish Language information about the 'testimony trials' within the major case ESMA can be found here:


  • Argentina
  • ESMA
  • mega causa
  • torture center

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