Sometimes justice is delayed but when it finally arrives, the wait seems worth it. Thirty-five years have passed since the Argentine military dictatorship ‘disappeared’ tens of thousands of its citizens. Today those responsible are being tried and sentenced to long prison terms.
Several days ago the trial concluded for those responsible for the main clandestine detention center, known as ESMA (the Naval Training School), where an approximate 5,000 were detained of whom only 100 survived. This torture center also served as a clandestine maternity ward where prisoners’ newborns were stolen in fact, today two children born in ESMA are members of the national Congress. And, it was from this infamous site that death planes departed at night with drugged prisoners who were dropped into the river.
Life in prison and long sentences for 18 former military officers convicted of 85 crimes against humanity is a strong message against impunity.This is just one of dozens of legal proceedings across Argentina against ex-military chiefs and high officers as well as the low-level torturers.
The road leading up to this moment has itself been torturous and twisted. It is difficult and traumatic when a country has to fight with its past. The trials against those responsible for the repression where ultimately revived under the government of Nestor and then Cristina Kirchner, contributing to the presidents’ popularity.
Argentina’s path is unfortunately not common across Latin America, whose history has been scarred by military dictatorships and violations of human rights. If dictators and torturers knew that their rule would come to an end and that justice would prevail one day, perhaps they would behave differently.
More than one tyrant must have been shaken by the bloody end of Moahmar Gadafi, someone who thought he was invincible. The trials in Argentina show that there are other ways to find justice in the face of state terror. One path is deliberative and complex but justice inevitably arrives in full force.