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Argentina: Court Convicts ‘Dirty War’ Torturer

Decision Ends 20 Years of Impunity

(Washington, D.C., August 4, 2006) – The conviction of a former police official who brutally tortured detainees during Argentina’s “dirty war” (1976-1983) is a landmark victory for Argentine justice, Human Rights Watch said today.

" This sentence shows that democratic institutions can eventually overcome all the legal barriers erected to shield perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Justice was finally done where it needed to be done – in Argentina itself. "
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch
  

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A federal court in Buenos Aires sentenced Julio Héctor Simón to 25 years in prison for the illegal arrest and torture of José Poblete Roa and Gertrudis Hlaczik de Poblete, a Chilean/Argentine couple who “disappeared” after being detained in November 1978 and held at the “Olympus,” a secret detention center run by the federal police.  
 
The court cited several aggravating circumstances in determining the sentence, among them that Simón concealed the fact that the couple’s eight-month-old daughter, Claudia, had been taken away and given for adoption to a police lieutenant and his wife, who concealed her true identity for 22 years.  
 
“This sentence shows that democratic institutions can eventually overcome all the legal barriers erected to shield perpetrators of crimes against humanity,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Justice was finally done where it needed to be done – in Argentina itself.”  
 
Simón, aka “Julian the Turk,” is the first individual to be convicted and sentenced for “disappearances” since the Argentine Supreme Court declared the “Full Stop” and “Due Obedience” laws unconstitutional in June 2005.  
 
The so-called “impunity laws,” which blocked the prosecution of crimes committed under the country’s last military dictatorship, were enacted by President Raúl Alfonsín in 1986 and 1987 to appease the military. However, the theft of babies was excluded from the laws.  
 
In October 2000, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), an Argentine human rights group, petitioned Judge Gabriel Cavallo, who was investigating the theft of Claudia Poblete from her mother, to declare the impunity laws unconstitutional. In March 2001, Cavallo invalidated the laws and charged the officers for the crimes committed against the couple.  
 
The Federal Appeals Court upheld the ruling unanimously the following November, and the Supreme Court ratified it three-and-a-half years later.  
 
President Néstor Kirchner has consistently backed the pursuit of justice for “dirty war” crimes, and in August 2003 the Argentine Congress struck down the laws, thus paving the way to the end of impunity.  

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