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(Washington, DC) – Human Rights Watch issued the following statement on the death on May 17, 2013 of the former Argentine military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla:

Jorge Rafael Videla participated in the March 24, 1976 coup d’etat, and acted as de facto president of Argentina until 1981. According to local human rights groups, approximately 30,000 people were “disappeared,” thousands were tortured and arbitrarily detained, and hundreds of babies were stolen and illegally appropriated by other families during the military dictatorship that ended in 1983.

“Videla will be remembered as the man who headed the cruelest dictatorship in Argentine history,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Fortunately, the Argentine judicial system did its job and held him accountable, allowing victims of his atrocities to have access to justice.”

In 1985, Videla was one of the first Latin American dictators to be convicted of crimes against humanity in the emblematic “Trial of the Military Juntas.” He was sentenced to life in prison.

Several important human rights cases were reopened after Congress annulled Argentina’s amnesty laws in 2003 and the Supreme Court confirmed that they were unconstitutional in 2005. Starting in 2005, federal judges struck down pardons that then-President Carlos Menem issued between 1989 and 1990 to former officials, including Videla, convicted of, or facing trial for, human rights violations.

Videla was convicted in a total of three trials, one in 1985, one in 2010, and a third in 2012 for his participation in human rights violations committed during the dictatorship, including torture, kidnappings, homicide, and illegal appropriation of babies. Videla died in prison, where he was serving his sentences.

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