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Argentine president blames ex-security agents for disappearance of 'dirty war' witnesses

Argentine president blames ex-security agents for disappearance of 'dirty war' witnesses

President Nestor Kirchner on Friday blamed the disappearance of two key witnesses in human rights trials on former security agents seeking impunity for abuses committed during Argentina's former military dictatorship.
In a nationally televised address, Kirchner vowed his government would not yield to what he called a blackmail bid by the former agents and would continue its efforts to try those accused of abuses during the 1966-73 military regime.
Earlier Friday, the Buenos Aires provincial government offered a US$130,000 (euro98,500) reward for information on the whereabouts of Luis Angel Gerez, 50, who has accused retired police chief Luis Abelardo Patti of torturing him in 1972 during Argentina's 1966-73 military regime.
Gerez is the second "dirty war" witness to vanish recently. Julio Lopez, whose testimony was instrumental in sentencing former police chief Miguel Etchecolatz to life in prison for the disappearance of six people, went missing on Sept. 18.
Kirchner said in both cases there are indications of the involvement of "former police and military agents who want to intimidate, pursuing their goal of maintaining impunity."
"Everybody be advised _ this president will not back any amnesty law whatsoever," said Kirchner, who postponed a planned trip to his native southern province of Santa Cruz to spend New Year's Eve. Instead, he remained in Buenos Aires coordinating efforts to locate Gerez.
Gerez was last seen leaving a friend's home Wednesday night in Escobar, a town just north of the capital of Buenos Aires.
"We are not going to yield to this blackmail. We are not going to allow the trials be stopped," the president said. "On the contrary, we demand the courts speed them up so that once and for all the assassins be sent where they belong _ to common prisons."
In testimony before a congressional committee, Gerez said he was arrested and given electric shocks. He said that although he was blindfolded, he recognized Patti's voice. As a result of the testimony, Patti was prevented from assuming a congressional seat he won in October 2005.
According to official figures, some 13,000 people were killed or made to disappear in the "dirty war" by military rulers against leftists and other political foes.
Kirchner had earlier said he was growing impatient with the low number of trials since Argentina's Supreme Court in June 2005 struck down 1980s-era amnesty laws shielding hundreds of former military and police officers.
Although two groundbreaking trials yielded convictions this year, Kirchner said the justice system must accelerate its response to the systematic campaign of abductions, tortures and covert killings under the 1976-83 junta.
Nearly 13,000 people are officially listed as missing or killed in the crackdown on political dissent, known as the "dirty war," conducted by the state through the military and its police allies. Human rights groups say the toll is closer to 30,000.
Nine of the junta leaders were convicted and imprisoned in 1985 on charges of abduction, torture and execution, but they and lower-ranking officers were pardoned five years later by President Carlos Menem.
Since the amnesty laws were annulled, some 250 active and former military and police officers have been recalled for questioning by the courts, reactivating dozens of cases.


Updated : 2021-04-14 16:05 GMT+08:00