For the first time a court rules that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy

The existence of a formal system of repressive coordination between the dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay was proven in court.

Argentina’s Federal Tribunal N°1 ruled today that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy to kidnap and disappear people across international borders. The Operation’s scope was proven in its full magnitude. For many different reasons this trial had unique characteristics and was of great regional importance: due to the sheer number of evidentiary documents involved; the hundreds of testimonies given either in person or via videoconference from witnesses’ countries of residence; and the vast group of people who were the plan’s victims, which included political, social, trade-union and student activists of various nationalities. All of this made it possible to prove the existence of a formal system of repressive coordination between the dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In its verdict, the court determined that the accused were part of that criminal system and were responsible for some specific Condor operations. For these reasons the tribunal sentenced Santiago Omar Riveros and former Uruguayan military official Manuel Juan Cordero Piacentini to 25 years in prison. Reynaldo Benito Bignone and Rodolfo Emilio Feroglio to 20 years. Humberto José Ramón Lobaiza to 18 years. Antonio Vañek, Eugenio Guañabens Perelló and Enrique Braulio Olea to 13 years. Luis Sadi Pepa, Néstor Horacio Falcón, Eduardo Samuel Delío, Felipe Jorge Alespeiti and Carlos Humberto Caggiano Tedesco to 12 years. And Federico Antonio Minicucci was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

All of the accused belonged to Argentina’s military forces with the exception of Cordero, who was extradited from Brazil for this trial. He had never been convicted of a crime in his native Uruguay. Bignone was the last dictator of the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, but his conviction in this trial refers to actions he took prior to assuming that post.

In addition, Miguel Ángel Furci, a former Argentine intelligence agent, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for being co-author of the crimes of illegal deprivation of liberty, aggravated by violence and threats, committed against 67 people during their captivity in the clandestine detention center known as Automotores Orletti.

Juan Avelino Rodríguez and Carlos Horacio Tragant were absolved.

Forty years after Operation Condor was formally founded, and 16 years after the judicial investigation began, this trial produced valuable contributions to knowledge of the truth about the era of state terrorism and this regional criminal network.

Over the course of this prolonged case, numerous defendants either died or were removed from the judicial process. However we understand that the State continues to have an obligation, arising in the case of crimes against humanity, to investigate and bring to light the facts that can be reliably established − even when none of those responsible can be convicted.

CELS belongs to the unified legal team representing plaintiffs in this case, along with the Equipo Jurídico Kaos, Fundación Liga Argentina por los DDHH and the attorney Alcira Ríos. It also represents the family members of Argentine citizens Horacio Campiglia, Mónica Susana Pinus de Binstock and Norberto Habegger, disappeared in Brazil, and Marcelo Gelman and María Claudia García Irureta Goyena, disappeared in Argentina and Uruguay, as well as the relatives of Uruguayan national Bernardo Arnone, who was disappeared in Argentina. CELS represented in the past the family members of María Emilia Islas Gatti and Juan Pablo Recagno Ibarburu, who died while the case was being processed.

Nosotros no sabíamos | León Ferrari