An Argentinian Court decided yesterday on one of the most heinous crimes of the military dictatorship ruling the country from 1976 to 1983: a systematic plan of illegal appropriation of minors. Two former de facto Presidents were found guilty.
The Federal Court of Buenos Aires sentenced former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla (86) to 50 years in prison, while Reynaldo Bignone (84), was sentenced to 15 years. Videla was the de facto President of Argentina from 1976 to 1981. Bignone was de facto president between July 1982 and December 1983.
The recent sentences will not make a big difference in the life of the two former dictators. Both are already serving hefty prison sentences for other crimes against humanity. In 2011, Bignone was sentenced to 25 years in a common prison for his involvement in the kidnapping, torture and murder of 56 people, and later in 2011, to life in prison for several other crimes including setting up a secret torture center inside a hospital during the 1976 military coup. Videla is already in prison for life since December 2010, after being found guilty and sentenced for his role in the assassination of 29 political prisoners in the city of Córdoba, according to BBC News.
Along with Videla and Bignone, other former military officers were also found responsible for their participation in the “disappearance” of the children. After Videla, the highest sentence was for the former Admiral Antonio Vañek, condemned to 40 years in prison. Several other people, including military personnel and civilians, also received sentences ranging from 5 to 30 years in prison, reports The Guardian.
The trial began in late 1996. At the time the trial started, it covered 35 cases of illegal appropriation of minors in a systematic campaign implemented by the military dictatorship of kidnapping the babies of jailed opponents to the military regime.. Since most of the babies' mothers died in prison, the grandmothers have searched for their grandchildren and claimed for justice for over 30 years.
Of the 35 cases, 26 grandchildren regained their identity, while nine other cases remain unresolved, including the grandson of Estela Barnes de Carlotto, the leader of the "Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo".
Hundreds of babies and children were illegally appropriated during the dictatorship. Most were born in captivity, many of them in clandestine maternity wards operating in the former School of Naval Mechanics (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, in the Army Battalion of the locality of Campo de Mayo, and other centers of illegal detention.
The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a human rights organization founded in 1977 to locate children kidnapped during the military regime and return them to their biological families, had been able to restore the identity of over 100 children, now adults, but the search still continues to locate another 400.
For over three decades, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have fought for the right to re-unite with their abducted children.