On July 5, former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was condemned to 50 years in prison for the execution of a systematic plan to steal babies during the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
The 86-year-old Videla headed the coup that overthrew then-President María Estela Martínez de Perón (1974-76) on March 24, 1976 and began the military regime that resulted in more than 30,000 deaths and disappeared. Videla remained as head of the military junta until March 1981.
The tribunal sentenced Videla and seven other military leaders, including former General Reynaldo Bignone — who between 1982 and 1983 replaced Leopoldo Galtieri (1981-82) as president of the military government —, to penalties ranging from 15 to 50 years for the abduction, retention, concealment, and substitution of identity of children under 10 years of age whose mothers were detained and part of the disappeared.
Videla was condemned as criminally responsible for 20 of the 35 cases of theft of minors that were included in the trial filed by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and relatives of the victims of this systemic theft.
The ruling rejected the statute of limitations on the crime presented by the defense, “since they are acts against humanity, carried out through a systematic abduction, retention, and concealment of minors, changing, altering, or suppressing their identity on the occasion of the kidnapping, captivity, disappearance, or death of their mothers in the general framework of annihilation that was carried out against part of the civilian population on the basis of fighting subversion, using state-sponsored terrorism methods between the years 1976 and 1983 of the last military dictatorship.”
Human rights organizations welcomed the decision, calling it an “historic” ruling.
In a press release, Amnesty International highlighted that “the importance of the conviction ruled by Federal Tribunal 6 is that for the first time, it was possible to demonstrate — through the 35 cases of illegal appropriation of children investigated in this case — the existence of a plan designed at the highest level by the military government to kidnap, hide and rename the children of people detained and disappeared during that time. This way, instead of handing them to their relatives, their identity was changed and they were given to other families that would register them as their own.”
Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, dedicated to finding and returning all children that were kidnapped and disappeared during the dictatorship to their legitimate families, estimates that about 500 minors were abducted and given for adoption, of which 105 have recovered their identities.