Hundreds of Argentine troops are headed back to class for a different sort of basic training _ in human rights.
The initiative was ordered by Defense Minister Nilda Garre, a veteran leftist politician and critic of the 1970s military dictatorship, and comes as Argentina struggles to fully confront the junta era during which security forces kidnapped and killed thousands of people.
Some 600 army, navy and air force officers will take the three-month, civilian-taught courses on the role of the state in a democratic society, conflict resolution and justice, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
Under the government of President Nestor Kirchner, who took office in 2003, Argentina has forced many military officers into retirement and reopened hundreds of rights cases after overturning a series of 1980s amnesty laws. Last week a federal court threw out presidential pardons from 1990 for two top junta leaders.
Nearly 13,000 people are officially reported as dead or missing during the seven-year military crackdown on dissent known as the dirty war. Human rights groups say the toll was closer to 30,000.
No major human rights violations have been reported since the return of democracy in 1983, and the military has remained loyal to civilian governments. But the Kirchner government and activists were dismayed by the disappearance last September of a key witness in a dirty war-era prosecution.