Twenty years on, amnesty end

27 June 2005 by Santiago O’Donnell

The Argentine Supreme Court changed the course of history on 14 June by abolishing the two amnesty laws known as "due obedience" and "full stop" passed in the late 1980s. Until now, the laws have shielded officers suspected of having committed crimes against humanity. The high court ruling could clear the way for prosecutions of 400 formerly low-ranking officials, accused of abduction, torture and murder during the military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983.

The Supreme Court found the amnesty laws unconstitutional, and threw out its associated benefits, including the clause of dismissal for lack of evidence that protected many officers. Charges can now be brought against them, and they can no longer invoke the legal principle of res judicata. Human rights groups have announced that they are lodging complaints against the 400 officers, 20 to 30 of whom are still in office. The now-abolished amnesty laws had essentially served to protect officers directly involved in the "dirty war" that shook the country at the end of the 1970s, when government troops battled with left-wing guerrilla groups trying to overturn them. During the period, over 10,000 people disappeared after being abducted by military and paramilitary patrols.

The weight of international law

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