Buenos Aires Times

argentina HOUSE ARREST CANCELLED

Dictatorship torturer Etchecolatz to return to jail

Since December 27 Etchecolatz, former Buenos Aires police commissioner, had been living in a house at the seaside resort of Mar del Plata, where demonstrators protested his release from prison.

Monday 19 March, 2018
Etchecolatz was reported at death’s door by his lawyer.
Etchecolatz was reported at death’s door by his lawyer. Foto:DyN.

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One of Argentina's most notorious dictatorship-era criminals, Miguel Etchecolatz, has been ordered to return to prison, after his home detention sparked protests.

Etchecolatz was controversially granted house arrest in December as part of a stint in jail for human rights crimes. Etchecolatz, 88, is serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity carried out during the last military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

The 88-year-old was serving six life sentences for torture, murder, the kidnapping of babies, and for the management of at least 21 concentration camps during his time as the head of investigations for the Buenos Aires provincial police force.

Judges ruled on Friday that his health is compatible with detention behind bars.

Since December 27, Etchecolatz, former Buenos Aires police commissioner, had been living in a house at the seaside resort of Mar del Plata, where demonstrators protested his release from prison.

Initially convicted in 1986 for the execution and torture of 91 people, he received amnesty before being tried again in 2006, when he was sentenced to life.

During the 1976-1986 dictatorship, Etchecolatz responded to General Ramón Camps, head of Buenos Aires provincial police, who militarised the force and turned it into one of the country's slickest death machines. 

This was particularly the case in the student city of La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, where thousands of university-aged militants, guerrillas and activists were tortured and disappeared. 

Like other human rights abusers, Etchecolatz was tried and jailed in 1985. However a series of presidential decrees let most free, until 2006 when the trials reopened.

A symbol of state terror, Etchecolatz had long been a house-hold name when he returned to the spotlight in 2006 during a human-rights trial holding up a note that read “Jorge Julio López, kidnap”. In a cruel irony, López, a former dictatorship-era detainee and key witness, is believed to have been kidnapped and disappeared in September 2006, the day he was due to give his final testimony.

Human rights groups say approximately 30,000 people disappeared during the dictatorship-era state's campaign of terror.

According to Argentina's prosecutor for crimes against humanity, more than 500 former junta officials were under home detention at the end of last year while roughly 450 others were serving their time in prison.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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