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Argentina jails ex-military officers for crimes during dictatorship

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BUENOS AIRES (REUTERS) – An Argentine judge sentenced 19 former military officers to prison on Wednesday (July 6) for crimes against humanity committed during the country’s brutal military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, including for kidnappings of auto plant workers.

The latest trials in Argentina follow last week’s Colombian truth commission report, following that South American country’s decades-long bloody internal conflict, as pent up demands for justice yield some gains.

The sentences handed down by the federal court in the capital Buenos Aires include convictions for forced disappearances, homicides, torture, as well as the abduction of children, crimes committed against some 350 victims during the military regime that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.

The dictatorship left as many as 30,000 disappeared persons, according to human rights groups, although determining precise figures remains a topic of debate.

Former General Santiago Riveros, previously convicted in other trials for human rights violations, was among those sentenced. He was ordered to serve a life term behind bars after being found guilty of more than a hundred crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder, according to Wednesday’s verdict.

Convictions handed down also covered charges that seven workers were kidnapped at a Mercedes Benz plant in the Buenos Aires suburbs beginning in 1976 by military forces with the backing of company executives.

According to the charges, executives complained to military authorities that the kidnapped employees either belonged to unions or sought to organize workers.

The abducted workers were taken to the infamous Campo de Mayo military compound, a secret facility that functioned like a concentration camp, and six of them officially remain missing though all are presumed dead.

Nearly 6,000 detainees likely passed through Campo de Mayo, located just outside Buenos Aires, and many of them are classified as disappeared.

A local Mercedes Benz representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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