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The Prosecutor v. Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Court Federal Criminal Tribunal No. 1 of La Plata, Argentina
Case number 2251/06
Decision title Sentencia (Judgment)
Decision date 19 September 2006
  • The Prosecutor
  • Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide
Keywords genocide, torture, Argentina, crimes against humanity, dictatorship, illegal detention, Murder
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Procedural history

Miguel Etchecolatz was first sentenced in 1986 to 23 years’ imprisonment for illegal detention and forced disappearance, but benefited from the amnesty laws Obediencia debida (due obedience) and Punto final (full-stop) of 1986-1987. In 2004, he was tried and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for the abduction of the baby of two disappeared persons, a crime not covered by the amnesty laws.

In 2003, the Argentinean Supreme Court declared these two laws unconstitutional in the case against Julio Héctor Simón, another former member of the police forces during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

See also (in Spanish): Legajo por recurso de apelación, 29 December 2005; Procesamiento, 3 May 2006

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Legally relevant facts

During the dictatorship and subsequent Military Junta in Argentina between 1976 and 1983, Miguel Etchecolatz was Commissioner General of Police for the province of Buenos Aires, and acted as General Director of Investigations. He was responsible for the 21 clandestine Detention Camps that functioned in Buenos Aires.

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Court's holding and analysis

On 19 September 2006, the Tribunal Oral en lo Criminal Federal No. 1 de La Plata sentenced Miguel Etchecolatz to life imprisonment for illegal detention, torture, and murder as crimes against humanity.

This judgment, the second for a former military officer since the amnesty laws were declared unconstitutional, is a landmark decision as the Court ruled that “the crimes for which Etchecolatz was sentenced were crimes against humanity committed during a genocide” [los delitos por los que se condenó a Etchecolatz eran de lesa humanidad y cometidos en el marco del genocidio], affirming that “there was clearly a systematic plan, an act of state terrorism” [en esos años en la Argentina evidentemente hubo un plan sistemático, un hecho de terrorismo de estado]. The judgment was the first time that the “Proceso de Reorganización Nacional” (the euphemism used by the Junta to designate its repression campaign) was qualified as genocide.

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Related cases

Other cases related to Argentina's Dirty War

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Additional materials