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Reynaldo Bignone served as Argentina’s head of state from 1982-83. He was involved in the military coup d’état that brought down Isabel Perón in 1976. Together with a number of other leaders of the military government that followed Perón, he was recently tried in Buenos Aires on charges that he authorized the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, kidnapping, and the operation of extralegal prisons, together with other crimes against humanity.
Bignone argued vigorously that he had immunity because of his position as president and under a series of decrees issued by his successor, Raúl Alfonsín, as well as an immunity law. He also argued that these crimes, largely committed in the late seventies, were barred by the statute of limitations. In his autobiography, El último de facto (The Last De Facto President), Bignone downplayed the charges of torture and kidnapping and argued that the special detention system was necessary in order to address a wave of terrorist violence that was threatening the country’s security. Argentine courts, however, applying international law doctrines that preclude impunity for government officials involved with torture and the operation of secret prisons, among other things, found all these defenses unavailing, and concluded that his claimed motivation to combat terrorism was irrelevant.
Bignone was convicted and received a 25-year sentence this week. His plea that he be allowed to serve his term under house arrest was denied because of the gravity of his crimes. He was ordered transferred to a prison outside of Buenos Aires. The Buenos Aires Herald reports:
Former dictatorship President Reynaldo Bignone, accused of human rights violations in the Campo de Mayo military garrison, has been sentenced to 25 years in regular prison, a court in the San Martin district in north-western Greater Buenos Aires area reported. Bignone, who is 81 years old and remained until now under house arrest, has been sentenced to 25 years in regular prison. Court announced he was found guilty of 11 illegal raids, 6 robberies, 15 illegal deprivation of liberty, 29 disappearances and 38 cases of torture. He was scheduled to pronounce “his last words” earlier along with other several former military commanders standing trial, and the verdict was read at 4:30 pm…
Meanwhile, the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, celebrated the sentence, “Justice came late, but it came. There are 114 condemned cases and it’s an example because we are leading the way in this area.”
The case of Reynaldo Bignone may make instructive reading for former Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Deputy Director Steven Kappes. Cheney is in retirement, and Kappes is preparing to leave the agency. Both should be cautious about any future travel plans.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”