The most important and longest trial in the whole history of Argentina came to an end on Thursday. After five years of hearings, involving 54 accused and 789 victims, 48 sentences were handed down: 29 life sentences, 19 convictions with jail sentences of between eight and 25 years, and six acquittals. The trial concerned human rights violations at the military dictatorship’s main concentration camp, the infamous “ESMA,” the Naval Mechanics School where people kidnapped by the regime were taken between 1976-1983.
The victims at ESMA numbered in the thousands, and the trial only involved the cases of some survivors and of the many who were killed during torture or thrown into the ocean from Navy airplanes in the infamous “death flights.” With these life sentences, an exemplary trial in the field of human rights has ended successfully, not only for Argentina but for all humanity.
It is now almost 40 years after the facts, but the trial of the leaders of the main illegal center for the detention, torture and killing of (presumed) political dissidents represents another step toward the edification of historical memory. The soldiers and officers now convicted have never repented, never collaborated with the judiciary, and, most egregiously, have never revealed the fate of thousands of desaparecidos (“disappeared”).