Jorge “Tigre” Acosta, the former head of intelligence of the ESMA task force 3.3.2, has been convicted of the sexual abuses suffered by Graciela García Romero, who was kidnapped and held captive at that clandestine detention center. Graciela was the first complainant to formally report sexual violence to the justice system. She was represented by CELS. In the court ruling, the judges stated that sexual abuse is independent of torture and constitutes a crime against humanity.
The Second Criminal Chamber of the Court of Appeals made this ruling after reviewing the sentence handed down by Federal Oral Tribunal 5 in 2017, in the case known as “ESMA Unificada” (Unified ESMA), which had not acknowledged the sexual assaults reported by Graciela. Instead, they categorized them as part of the general torment suffered in captivity.
“We believe that acts of sexual violence should be classified under the specific criminal offenses related to this type of crime, as it is the appropriate way to make them visible and to establish their true scope,” stated judges Guillermo Yacobucci and Carlos Mahiques. The judges also highlighted the international obligations of the State regarding the prosecution of crimes against humanity and the investigation and punishment of violence against women.
CELS has accompanied Graciela in support of her pursuit of justice since 2005. She was the first complainant to formally report the sexual violence suffered at ESMA, deciding to pursue justice through the criminal justice system. The then-judge of the case, Sergio Torres, indicted Acosta in 2009 for the crime of rape. However, the Court of Appeals reclassified the acts as torture, arbitrarily denying the specific characteristics of these types of crimes and the consequences for the psychological and physical integrity of their victims.
Despite this setback, in 2011 Judge Torres initiated a judicial case to investigate crimes against humanity committed against the sexual integrity of other kidnapped and disappeared detainees at ESMA. In the “ESMA II” trial, which concluded in December 2011 and mainly addressed the actions of Task Force 3.3.2 led by Acosta, upon CELS’s request, testimonies were gathered to investigate the commission of crimes against the sexual integrity of the kidnapped individuals.