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Argentine “Stolen Babies” Case Goes to Trial

March 11, 2011

Former Argentine Dictators Face Trial
for Theft of Children During “Dirty War” 

Latin America News Dispatch reports that former dictators Jorge Rafael Videla (at left) and Reynaldo Bognone are at last on trial for their knowledge of and participation in the theft of the babies of “disappeared” political prisoners during the country’s “Dirty War.” Six others – former military officers and a doctor – are also on trial. 
            At least 400 children are estimated to have been stolen during the military dictatorship. Videla and Bognone are specifically charged with “taking, retaining and hiding minors and changing their identities” in the cases of only 30. Both men are in their 80’s, and are already serving long prison terms for other crimes during the dictatorship. The trial is expected to take at least a year.
            Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 people were “disappeared” during the period of military rule, from 1976-83. The “official” list totals 13,000. Many were young students or activists, tortured in the regime’s secret prisons before being murdered, and there is evidence that pregnant women were kept alive until they delivered, so that their babies could be turned over to military and police families who wished to adopt.
            Demand for the prosecution of those responsible has been spearheaded by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. The well-known human rights group has also been instrumental in efforts to identify stolen children and give them the opportunity to reunite with those who survive of their birth families. Over a hundred – now young adults – have been enabled to recover their true identities.

“This trial is necessary to set things straight,” said Leonardo Fossati, whose mother was three months pregnant when she was kidnapped in 1977. “For a long time now, they have denied there was a systematic plan to steal babies.”

Two outstanding feature films have explored the story of the stolen children: In The Official Story (La Historia Official – 1985), a middle-class Argentine woman must confront growing suspicion that her adopted daughter may have been taken by her husband from parents “disappeared” during the “Dirty War.” It was the first Latin American film to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar. In Cautiva (Captive) made in 2005, twenty years later, an Argentine teenager discovers that her real parents were among those tortured and murdered under the dictatorship – and that the couple who have raised her may have had something to do with their disappearance.

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