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Argentine Senate Votes to Revoke Amnesty Laws

August 21, 2003|From Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina's Senate early today voted overwhelmingly to scrap a pair of amnesty laws dating from the 1980s that had ended trials for human rights abuses committed during the country's military dictatorship.

Senators voted 43-7, with one abstention and 21 lawmakers absent, to support the proposal, which the lower Chamber of Deputies passed last week.

The final congressional approval marked a victory for human rights groups pressing for a national reexamination of the 1976-83 dictatorship.

The decision brought raucous applause from visitors' balconies and shouts of "Ole! Ole! Ole!" from human rights activists. Women associated with the rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who are still seeking an accounting for those missing, filled the galleries. Some held crinkled black-and-white photos of victims.

While the Senate vote gave final legislative approval to scrapping the laws, observers said the Supreme Court will probably have the final decision on the laws. Supporters of the laws are expected to appeal to the justice system to retain them.

About 9,000 people were officially reported as dead or missing during the junta's years in power, but human rights groups estimated that the number could be as high as 30,000 from the seven-year period in which leftist opponents were hunted down, kidnapped off the streets, tortured and made to "disappear."

Following Argentina's dictatorship, many ranking military officers were tried on charges of abduction, torture and execution of suspected opponents of the regime. They were imprisoned in 1985 and later pardoned in 1990 by then-President Carlos Menem.

Military officers and their families have argued that there is no point to reopening old wounds or rejudging crimes that have already been pardoned. They said many military officers were simply doing their duty to defend their country or just taking orders.

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