Ex-Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone were convicted and sentenced to 50 years for a systematic plan to steal babies from political prisoners.
Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and his companion, Argentine general and dictatorial president of Argentina Reynaldo Bignone were found quilty and convicted to 50 years in prison for masterminding a plan for stealing the newborn children of political opponents and handing the babies over to be raised by ‘ good ‘ military families after killing their mothers. The prisoners were kidnapped, tortured and killed during the military junta’s war on leftist dissenters thirty years ago.
In at least 5 hundred documented cases, the military regime took these newborn babies of the regime’s victims and gave the infants to military officials or to the regime’s supporters to raise as their own children. The frequency of this practice has come to light in recent years, showing how insidious the practices of the Argentine military dictatorship were and how the legacies of military rule continue to resonate in Argentine society nearly three decades after the end of the regime.
Argentina baby theft trial / Former Argentine dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone convicted of having babies stolen from political dissidents
The Argentina official says at least 4 hundred children are thought to have been taken from their parents while they were held in detention centres. 86-year-old Jorge Rafael Videla, received the maximum sentence as he was held criminally responsible for twenty of the thefts. Former dictator Jorge Videla listened to the verdict without showing any visible emotion.
Reynaldo Bignone was also given a life sentence in April last year for the torture and murder of political prisoners. Victims’ groups nevertheless welcomed the latest verdicts as a confirmation of the defendants’ guilt for what many consider as the most heinous crimes committed under military rule.
The reading of the verdict was followed by a huge triumphant crowd outside the Buenos Aires court who viewed the proceedings on giant video screens set up on the street in a carnival-like atmosphere organised by human rights groups with some of Argentina’s top rock bands playing to the assembled crowd after the verdict was heard.
Argentina verdict : 50 years jail for Jorge Rafael Videla and Bignone, Argentinian ex-dictators
Robert Cox – the British journalist, who was one of the main witnesses at the trial last year, said the kidnapping of newly born babies is the last crime that former members of the military regime are willing to admit. ‘ It’s like the Nazis, what they did was so terrible they could never admit it. ‘
Apart from Jorge Rafael Videla, other top leaders of the military regime received sentences ranging from fourty to 15 years, including the last Argentinian dictator Reynaldo Bignone – the last leader of the military junta in 1983, former general Santiago Riveros, who oversaw a number of death camps, Jorge Acosta, head of the ESMA death camp where a special maternity ward was set up to deliver many of the abducted children, as well as doctor Jorge Magnacco, who delivered most of the babies born at the ESMA.
One wife of a military officer who brought one such newborn boy home 34 years ago contended she never knew the baby was the son of a murdered political prisoner. She said that her priority has always been her children. ‘ I feel I have 3 children although one is not my biological son ‘ said Susana Colombo, who was sentenced to 5 years for the kidnapping of Francisco Madariaga, who only found out his real identity 2 years ago after growing up believing that Susana Colombo was his real mother.
The trial featured gut-wrenching testimony from relatives who searched inconsolably for their missing children, and from people who learned as young adults that they were raised by some of the very people involved in the disappearance of their birth parents.