Skip to main content

Trial over terrifying 'Operation Condor' under way

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 1613 GMT (0013 HKT)
Relatives of victims during South American military regimes hear trial ruling at Argentine embassy, Montevideo, March 31, 2011.
Relatives of victims during South American military regimes hear trial ruling at Argentine embassy, Montevideo, March 31, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A major human rights trial is under way in Argentina
  • Prosecutors accuse 25 defendants of crimes against humanity
  • The charges arise from the 1970s Operation Condor in South America
  • Thousands were killed and disappeared during that period of repression

(CNN) -- A trial over one of Latin America's darkest moments is under way in Argentina, where 25 defendants are accused of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in a 1970s campaign of repression and violence.

Operation Condor was an organized campaign by the continent's right-wing governments to suppress and crush political opposition. On Tuesday, 25 former officials tied to the operation appeared in court for the first day of what officials say could be a trial of more than two years.

The clandestine nature of Operation Condor means that its full extent may never be known, but researchers estimate that 50,000 were killed, 30,000 were "disappeared" and presumed killed, and 400,000 were jailed, according to The Center for Justice and Accountability.

Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet was central to the operation, which also included participation from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay, the center says.

Tuesday's trial is the first time for such a large number of defendants in the case to be tried together. The defendants are Argentinean except for one Uruguayan, former Maj. Juan Cordeiro Piacentini.

Among the specific charges, 12 of the defendants, including former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, are accused of 108 counts of human rights violations in several South American countries.

Videla is already serving a life sentence for human rights abuses during his tenure.

Another former Argentinian dictator, Gen. Reynaldo Benito Bignone, is among another group of defendants being charged with 35 specific cases of abuse under Operation Condor.

Bignone also was previously convicted of human rights abuses in another trial and is serving a 25-year sentence.

The trial is expected to last a minimum of two years and about 500 witnesses are expected to testify, the government's Center for Judicial Information said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0500 GMT (1300 HKT)
China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, leaders of the most populous nations face similar challenges. Can they learn from each other?
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
The U.S. is not returning combat troops to Iraq, President Barack Obama insists.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN that no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astatke is the founding father of ethio-jazz: a fusion of Ethiopian music with western jazz.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Psychedelic drugs are being researched as a potential treatment for conditions ranging from anxiety to tobacco and alcohol addiction.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0142 GMT (0942 HKT)
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in Bali.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT