Argentina’s dictatorship: 30 years fighting for justice

Some 30,000 activists were kidnapped and murdered during the military junta dictatorship, which ruled Argentina from 1976-1983. During the Dirty War in Argentina, much of the population remained silent due to censorship imposed by the military government. After the dictatorship ended, ex-detainees and human rights groups gathered extensive information to prosecute officers who served during the military dictatorship. However, the full stop and due obedience laws implemented in the early 90′s foreclosed any successful prosecution of ex military leaders for human rights crimes by the courts. For over 20 years, victims and their families have waited for due justice.

Over a dozen ex-detainees testified during the trial that Simon had tortured them in the Olimpo, one of the most infamous clandestine detention and torture centers in Buenos Aires. He also carried out dirty work in Club Atletico and El Banco. Many testified that Simon was in charge of welcoming detainees. Susana Caride, torture survivor testified that when she arrived Simon, “beat me with his fists, chains and then threw salt water on me.”

Rebeca Sacolasky, who is now 83-years-old testified in the trial. She is an ex-detainee and torture survivor. “I was tortured by this sinister character. Now I’m satisfied because he won’t be released for 25 years. I would have liked for the judge to give him a higher sentence, because Simon has a violent heart. He tortured many of us until some of the comrades died.” For Sacolasky, her revenge has been continuing to fight for human rights. “I’ve come into contact with Simon several times. It didn’t fill me with rage, it filled me with the strength to continue to fight. I was able to become a human rights activist.”


After the military dictatorship, Simon settled down in the Buenos Aires’s downtown area of Congreso. He had been on trial, but the Full Stop and Due Obedience laws cleared him of any possible charges. During the 90′s he ran a prostitution ring in Congreso, sending women to attend clients from a corner café just a few blocks from national congress.

Just a few years ago, Simon re-appeared with impunity. During a protest near Congreso several activists recognized Simon sitting in a café. They were surprised, but ready to take action. Simon got a taste of popular justice. They entered the café and beat him up, giving him a few cracks on the head.

Human rights activists and relatives of the disappeared cheered and embraced each other after the verdict was read on August fourth. Human rights groups have said that this trial was made possible thanks to activists, not government officials. “These cases have been opened after 30 years thanks to popular struggle. But in this trial, the court hasn’t charged Julio Simon with genocide or crimes against humanity, but as if they committed a regular crime,” said Leopoldo Tiseira, member of H.I.J.O.S. and whose mother and father were disappeared.

On the opening day of the trial, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo were banned from entering the courtroom wearing their white head scarves, symbolizing the diapers of their missing children. The mothers left the courtroom, saying that they will not negotiate their head scarves.

Calvo expressed hope for the future “We are going to continue to work until those responsible for the death of 30,000 go to jail. But what we want is for them to be tried for what they really are, actors in genocide, and not for particular charges. In Argentina the military disappeared 30,000 people, we can’t hold a trial for each of the disappeared. We want those responsible to be tried for the plan the military orchestrated to destroy the majority of the population.”

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