(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International applauds Argentine authorities for the historic convictions of former Presidents Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone for the systematic kidnapping of children under their leadership.
Videal and Bignone were found guilty of the taking, retention, and hiding of minors and the suspension of their identity during the military regime that ruled in Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The former presidents were sentenced to 50 and 15 years in prison respectively.
"These convictions show that no one is above the law," said Mariela Belski, executive director of Amnesty International Argentina. "This is a very significant step in the journey undertaken by Argentina in the past few years to try those responsible for the severe human rights violations committed by the last military government."
Evidence from 35 cases of illegal appropriation of children made it possible, for the first time, to demonstrate the existence of a plan designed at the highest level by the military government to kidnap, hide and rename the children of individuals who were detained or forcibly disappeared. Instead of handing children over to their relatives, authorities changed their identities and gave them away to other families to register as their own.
Six of the 35 cases had carried over from the trials that took place against the military in 1985, but at the time, it was not possible to prove the existence of a plan to deal with children born during the captivity of their mothers or the babies kidnapped during military operations.
In addition to Videal and Bignone, six other former military leaders were sentenced to penalties of between five and 40 years, among them a doctor that participated in clandestine births.
This ruling marks the end of a court case 15 years in the running as well as a public and oral trial that lasted a year. To date, more than 100 illegally appropriated children have recovered their identity, 20 of whom gave testimony during this process. It is estimated that more than 500 children were illegally appropriated under the military government.
"We call on Argentine authorities to continue advancing these investigations to help those who have yet to recover their identities," said Belski.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.