Former dictator, General Reynaldo Bignone has been sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity committed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Bignone, who was de facto president of Argentina from 1982 – 1983, was the last military dictator to rule the country.
He was convicted of crimes that he committed in 1977, when he was the commander of the military base and clandestine detention centre Campo de Mayo. Bignone was condemned alongside five other former military officers on charges of forced entry, kidnap and torture.
The court at San Martín condemned the former general on 11 counts of forced entry, six robberies, 44 kidnappings and 38 counts of torture. As the bodies of those who were “disappeared” were never discovered, he has not been condemned for murder.
The former dictator, who is 82 years old, had remained unpunished for crimes committed during the dictatorship for over 30 years. The case against him began after former President Nestor Kirchner struck down amnesty laws in 2005 that granted impunity to former members of the military regime. Bignone was condemned yesterday and has now spent his first night in a public prison.
The accused were not in the courtroom when the sentence was read out. Families of victims and human rights workers, who were present to hear the verdict, cheered when the judge read out the sentence.
Estela de Carlotto, president of the human rights group Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, stated: “today is a good day for Argentines… Justice was slow in coming but it has finally arrived.” However, she also warned: “A lot remains to be done. There are hundreds more accused.”
Bignone was the last of the four military dictators who ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. Before handing over power to the democratic leader Raúl Alfonsín, he ordered all records held by the armed forces to be destroyed and signed a law granting amnesty to members of the armed forces.
During the trial, Bignone admitted for the first time that people were “disappeared” by the state, something that has been denied by members of the military regime until now. However, he insisted that the number of victims was 8,000. Human rights groups state that around 30,000 people were killed.