Over 150 testimonies, covering 79 cases and relating to torture and human rights abuses allegedly committed by Argentine military officers against conscripts, during the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war, are under investigation by Argentine federal judge Liliana Herraz, reports the official news agency Telam.
Some of the crimes under investigation include homicide, abandonment and submission to torture such as staking to the ground, depriving conscripts of food and shelter, blows and other “aberrations”.
The investigation received an important support earlier this year when the Comodoro Rivadavia Federal Chamber described the long list of accusations as “crimes against humanity” and therefore imprescriptible.
More over earlier this month the province of Buenos Aires Human Rights Secretary Sara Derotier together with solicitor Eduardo Reczes from the La Plata Former Malvinas Combatants Centre joined the case with further evidence and twenty witnesses.
Malvinas veteran Jose Martin Araníbar who has been coordinating the plaintiff presentations in the federal court of Rio Grande, (Tierra del Fuego) said he was hopeful “it could lead to the truth of what happened in the Islands”.
However one of the defendants, former Lieutenant Jorge Taranto (accused of starving two conscripts to death) managed a favourable ruling from an appeals court in Buenos Aires arguing that “crimes against humanity” imply “systematic attacks on a civilian population”, which did not happen in the Falklands/Malvinas.
But Aranibar points out that conscripts were civilians enrolled by the Argentine government to fight a foreign enemy and as such should have protected them, “instead of exposing them to all sorts of abuses”.
Nevertheless if the ruling stands Aranibar anticipated plaintiffs will take their case to the Supreme Court and to the Inter American Human Rights Court in Washington.
Taranto is one of several Argentine Army and Navy officers very much prone to violence and allegedly seriously involved on all type of abuses against conscripts including homicide.
Araníbar is hopeful that following the summer recess the case will continue to advance and more testimonies will be received by Judge Herrarez
”We even had coordinators from the Truth and Justice National Program visit the Rio Grande court to emphasize their interest in following the case. That’s a big boost to morale and to ensure the case gets good coverage”.
Another crucial testimony which is expected following the recess is that from Army chaplain Vicente Martins Torrens who wrote a book titled “God in the trenches”, where he describes abuses committed by officers against their own soldiers plus other heart-breaking episodes of the conflict.
The book also has illustrations showing pictures of squalid hungry conscripts and in page 69 specifically refers to a young solider staked to the wet peaty ground in the open for whom chaplain Martins Torrens begged mercy, but was denied according to Aranibar.
In another case an Army officer has a 19 year old staked to the ground and left several days without food for allegedly acting as a “sissy” and having pinched food from the officers mess room.
“All this happened in Malvinas and must come to light, above all because somebody up there is looking on us and demanding we do so”, said Aranibar