Sunday, March 01, 2009

Argentina's Military Officers Now Can Be Tried for Torturing Their Own Soldiers

I've dealt with cases of justice against Argentina's military regime several other cases before. However, a particularly interesting new ruling occurred last week, in which an Argentine court ruled that the torture officers inflicted upon their soldiers during the Malvinas/Falklands War constitutes a "war crime" and a "crime against humanity." The ruling opens the way for prosecution of officers, many still active and fairly high in the military chain of command, who tortured their soldiers before sending them off to the 1982 war with England. The accusations number over 70, alleging incidents of staking soldiers to the ground with a mask over their faces, being forced to stand in holes filled with water up to their wastes for hours on end, food- and water-deprivation, and "direct physical torture." I really don't know where this will lead (though one person quoted in the article said that Argentina will "have a year full of headlines coming"), but it does offer some important insights into how poorly Argentine military conscripts and soldiers were treated by their own officers. We (myself included) too often simplify the Argentine military (and other military dictatorships) as monolithic entities that acted as a unified whole from top to bottom. This ruling is excellent not only for the path to justice it opens for dozens of soldiers, but also in revealing just how pervasive torture was in the Argentine military (when you're using it on your own soldiers, it's pretty deeply rooted), and how dynamic and heterogeneous militaries (in charge of governments or not) are in terms of class, race, ideologies, and numerous other factors.