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US Government knew about the Stolen Babies of Argentina

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'Stolen Babies' trial awaits U.S. documents

 

Published: Jan. 23, 2012

 

Argentina's Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo think a trial now underway could reunite them with stolen grandchildren. A key ally is U.S. Rep. Hinchey, who is pushing Obama to declassify relevant documents by executive order.

 

Hinchey in the 1990s proposed similar legislation that forced the U.S. government to admit its knowledge of a 1973 Chilean military coup that ended in the assassination of that country's elected socialist leader Salvador Allende.

 

Last year Hinchey introduced legislation in the House that would have forced the declassification of the Argentine documents, but the measure failed. After that he wrote President Obama in November, asking him to declassify the records by executive order.

 

"Thousands of families have waited more than 30 years to learn the fates of their loved ones," he wrote, "and we have an opportunity to make a contribution to truth and justice by helping to bring this troubling chapter in Argentina's history to a close."

 

4,700 Docs Declassified

 

The State Department in 2002 declassified 4,700 documents pertaining to the Dirty War.

Carlotto and her group's lawyers believe that one of those documents proves there was not only a systematic plan to appropriate children, but that it was sanctioned by the highest levels of power.

That document is a 1982 memo by Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, who is scheduled to testify here this month.

 

In that memo, Abrams wrote: "I raised with the ambassador the question of children in this context, such as children born to prisoners or children taken from their families during the Dirty War. While the disappeared were dead, these children were alive and this was in a sense the gravest humanitarian problem. The ambassador agreed completely and had already made this point to his foreign minister and the president. They had not rejected his view but had pointed on the problem, for example, of taking children from their adoptive parents."

 

Carlos Osorio, director of the Southern Cone Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said in a November interview that the Abrams memo is key.

 

"The Grandmothers are pointing to this little nugget as evidence that declassified documents help to bring some justice in Argentina then, and thus they want to call for CIA, FBI and Pentagon declassification on Argentina," Osorio told Women's eNews.

 

Lawyers in the case could not be reached to answer questions about the extent to which Abrams might be grilled about the memo.

 

Redacted Transcript

 

Carlotto said another document from the State Department contains a transcription of a conversation between a U.S. official and Reinaldo Bignone, the general who headed the military junta. Parts of the transcription had been edited out, she said. She added that in December the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires provided her with the full version.

 

She said that in the transcribed conversation Bignone acknowledges the systematic appropriation of children. The attorney for Carlotto's group is on vacation and did not respond to a request to see the document by press time.

 

The outcome of the case could have enormous personal consequences for some 400 to 500 Argentines in their 20s and 30s, who the grandmothers estimate to be living under false identities here.

 

Many of them are unaware that their real parents were murdered and that they themselves were given to military families to raise them as their own.

 

Until recently, that group included Victoria Montenegro.

 

In 1976, as a brutal military dictatorship here was jailing, torturing and killing dissidents, she was a tiny baby.

 

For years, growing up in Buenos Aires, she had no idea that a young couple named Hilda Ramona Torres and Roque Orlando Montenegro were two of those presumed subversives who lost their lives. As a young adult, Montenegro learned not only that they had been her biological parents, but that the man she knew as her father, Lt. Colonel Herman Tetzlaff, had murdered them and taken her as his own daughter under the invented name, Maria Sol.

Tetzlaff admitted to his deeds in 2000.

 

Coming to Terms

In 2010, Montenegro, after consenting to a DNA test, finally came to terms with what happened, changing her name along the way.

Montenegro told Women's eNews that she supports Hinchey's efforts to persuade Obama to declassify the records.

 

"There is sufficient evidence that the CIA was keeping records at the time about the dictatorship," she said. "They can help us show that there was a systematic appropriation of children."

This trial is just one of several seeking to document human rights abuses during the military dictatorship.

The trials began in 2007 after then-Argentine President Nestor Kirchner overturned two key amnesty laws that had long kept military officials from being prosecuted. As a result of the court cases, 802 military officials, police and civilians people have been indicted for crimes against humanity, and 243 have been found guilty, according to a report by the Argentine attorney general's office

 

Fourteen trials are currently underway, and 10 more are set to start this year.

Not all Argentines are in favor of the trials.

Jorge Cadera, a 33-year-old taxi driver from Buenos Aires, echoed the sentiments of many when he said the country should look forward, not back.

"What does it help to bring the past up?" he asked. "With everything there is to fix, it doesn't make sense to cause these problems. We should move on."

 

Read more: http://www.upi.com/T.../#ixzz2NYS5KeRX

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Argentina jails former dictators over stolen baby scandal

 

Infants were illegally taken from their political prisoners parents 30 years ago.

 

 

06/07/12 3,301 Views 2 Comments Share3 Tweet6 Email3

 

PA-13974562-390x285.jpg

People hold signs that read in Spanish "Give the children back" outside the Buenos Aires court yesterday.

Image: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko/PA

THE CONVICTION OF two former dictators for the systematic stealing of babies from political prisoners 30 years ago is a big step in Argentina’s effort to punish that era’s human rights abuses, though certainly not the last.

Following Thursday’s convictions of Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, at least 17 other major cases are before judges or are nearing trial.

Among them is a “mega-trial” involving the Navy Mechanics School, which became a feared torture center as the 1976-1983 military junta kidnapped and killed 13,000 opponents while trying to annihilate an armed leftist uprising. That case involves 65 defendants, nearly 900 victims, more than 100 witnesses and about 60,000 pages of evidence.

A “Never Again” commission formed shortly after Argentina’s democracy was restored in 1983 documented thousands of crimes against humanity during the military regime, but hardly any of the violators were prosecuted until the late Nestor Kirchner was elected president 20 years later.

Justice Minister Julio Alak said Thursday that Kirchner’s wife and successor, President Cristina Fernandez, deserves credit for making the human rights cases a cornerstone of government.

“It’s unthinkable that in a state of law, the murderers of the people could be in any place but prison,” Alak said after the verdicts were read.

Jailed

Videla, 86, was sentenced to 50 years in prison, while the 84-year-old Bignone got 15 years for their roles in the baby thefts. The prison time is symbolic, though, because both men have been behind bars for years following multiple convictions and life sentences for other crimes against humanity.

Seven of their co-defendants were also convicted on charges involving the theft of 34 babies, while two people were acquitted by a three-judge panel.

Despite the jailing of Videla and Bignone, most people who have been convicted of rights violations during the dictatorship remain free on appeal, and many others have yet to stand trial.

According to a March tally by Argentina’s independent Center for Legal and Social Studies, a total of 1,861 defendants have been named in cases of state terror, but verdicts were reached for only 17 percent of them — with 92 percent of them found guilty. Since the trials began in 2006, at least 65 have resulted in sentences, but only seven of these have exhausted an appeals process that takes more than two years on average.

Still, Thursday’s verdicts were a cause for celebration outside the federal courthouse in Buenos Aires, where activists watched them being announced on a huge television screen.

“This is an historic day. Today legal justice has been made real — never again the justice of one’s own hands, which the repressors were known for,” prominent rights activist Tati Almeida said.

Stolen babies

The baby thefts set Argentina’s military regime apart from all the other juntas that ruled in Latin America at the time. Videla and other military and police officials were determined to remove any trace of the armed leftist guerrilla movement they said threatened the country’s future.

Many pregnant women detained as dissidents were “disappeared” shortly after giving birth in clandestine maternity wards, and their babies were handed over to families trusted by military officials.

In his testimony, Videla denied there was any systematic program for stealing babies, and accused prisoners of using their unborn children as “human shields” in their fight against the state.

He called himself a “political prisoner,” labeled the trial a farce and characterised his sentence as revenge by people who after being defeated militarily now occupy positions in the government. Despite this, Videla said, he would accept his sentence “in protest, as an act of service,” and with a clear conscience.

Witnesses during the trial included former U.S. diplomat Elliot Abrams. He was called to testify after a long-classified memo describing his secret meeting with Argentina’s ambassador was made public at the request of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group whose evidence-gathering efforts were key to the prosecution.

Abrams testified from Washington that he secretly urged that Bignone reveal the stolen babies’ identities as a way to smooth Argentina’s return to democracy.

“We knew that it wasn’t just one or two children,” Abrams testified, suggesting that there must have been some sort of directive from a high level official — “a plan, because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed.”

No reconciliation effort was made. Instead, Bignone ordered the military to destroy evidence of “dirty war” activities, and the junta denied any knowledge of baby thefts, let alone responsibility for the disappearances of political prisoners.

The U.S. government also revealed little of what it knew as the junta’s death squads were eliminating opponents.

The Grandmothers have since used DNA evidence to help 106 people who were stolen from prisoners as babies recover their true identities, and 26 of these cases were part of this trial. Many were raised by military officials or their allies, who falsified their birth names, trying to remove any hint of their leftist origins.

The rights group estimates as many as 500 babies could have been stolen in all, but the destruction of documents and passage of time make it impossible to know for sure.

The trial featured gut-wrenching testimony from relatives who searched inconsolably for their missing children, and from people who learned as young adults that they were raised by some of the very people involved in the disappearance of their birth parents.

The other seven defendants convicted and sentenced Thursday included former Adm Antonio Vanek, 40 years; former marine Jorge “Tigre” Acosta, 30; former Gen Santiago Omar Riveros, 20; former navy prefect Juan Antonio Azic, 14; and Dr Jorge Magnacco, who witnesses said handled some of the births, 10.

Former Capt Victor Gallo and his ex-wife Susana Colombo were sentenced to 15 and five years in jail, respectively, after their adopted son, now going by his birth name Francisco Madariaga, testified against them.

Retired Adm Ruben Omar Franco and Eduardo Ruffo, a former intelligence agent who was accused of handing babies over to adoptive families, were absolved.

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