ESMA trial: The “death flights” were proven in court

After a trial lasting five years, the case known as ESMA III ended with 29 life imprisonment convictions, 19 sentences of between 8 and 25 years in prison, and 6 acquittals.

In some cases, 41 years had passed since the people listed among the 789 victims of crimes against humanity in the ESMA “mega-case” were kidnapped and forcibly disappeared. Yesterday, at the trial verdict, their relatives – and survivors of those crimes – were finally able to see justice done. Also, the notorious “death flights” in which the Argentine dictatorship drugged prisoners and dumped them into open waters were proven in court for the first time, with two pilots convicted to life in prison.

The verdict in the biggest trial in Argentine history, which lasted five years, ended with 29 people convicted to life imprisonment, 19 sentenced to between 8 and 25 years in prison, and 6 acquitted. The full list of people convicted for crimes against humanity committed in the School of Naval Mechanics (ESMA) clandestine detention center, and each of their sentences, can be found on a special minisite about the trial. This was the third but by far the largest trial prosecuting crimes in the ESMA, given the number of cases analyzed, the 54 defendants who lived to hear the verdict, and the more than 800 witnesses who testified.

In the long list of disappeared people who were detained in the ESMA, the members of the group of the Bajo Flores shantytown have a special place in our memory. After the abductions of Mónica Mignone, María Marta Vásquez Ocampo, César Amado Lugones, Horacio Pérez Weiss, Beatriz Carbonell, Mónica Quinteiro and María Ester Lorusso, Emilio and Chela Mignone began hosting meetings in their apartment, planting the seeds for the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS). In this trial, we also represented Graciela García and Marta Álvarez, and the families of Ariel Ferrari, Alcira Fidalgo, Sergio, Hugo and Betina Tarnopolsky, Blanca Edelberg, Laura Del Duca, Pablo Lepíscopo and Fernando Brodsky. In addition, we intervened in the trial as a human rights organization and led the unified legal team representing plaintiffs.