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Argentina's Alfonsin Seeks Amnesty for Some Officers

May 13, 1987|United Press International

BUENOS AIRES — The government of President Raul Alfonsin today asked for an amnesty for junior- and middle-grade military officers accused of atrocities against political prisoners during the previous military regime.

Alfonsin, in a radio and television address shortly after an amnesty bill drafted by the executive branch was presented to the congress, said the bill was necessary to achieve national reconciliation and assure the survival of Argentina's fledgling democracy.

"I feel confident the measure will withstand the test of time," Alfonsin said.

The bill, if approved by the congress, will grant an amnesty to officers below the rank of lieutenant colonel who committed crimes against political prisoners during the 1970s, when 9,000 people disappeared.

After Alfonsin was elected in 1983, ending eight years of military rule, he ordered an investigation into "the disappeared."

Secret Executions

A government investigation concluded in 1984 that "the disappeared" in fact had been captured by members of the security forces and secretly executed after torture.

Alfonsin conceded that the amnesty bill would benefit officers who committed atrocities against civilian prisoners.

"I don't like this," the president said. However, he supported the theory that the lower-ranking officers should be exempted from trial because they were following orders.

It will not benefit the five ex-military junta members now serving jail sentences, ranging from 4 1/2 years to life, for their responsibility in planning and ordering the repression.

In mid-April rebellious middle-grade army officers who held the rank of lieutenant when the human rights crimes were committed seized four garrisons in mutinies to protest the trials. The uprisings were quelled without bloodshed.

Alfonsin Denies Deal

Alfonsin has denied that he made a deal with the rebels, but the uprising spurred efforts by the government to propose new amnesty legislation.

The amnesty law benefits the majority of the 230 officers who were liable for human rights trials.

The amnesty bill is the second measure within six months designed to limit the human rights trials.

Last December congress adopted a statute of limitations law, exempting from prosecution officers who were not delivered a court subpoena before Feb. 22.

Middle-ranking officers were nevertheless angered, saying the measure did not go far enough.

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