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
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 2340 GMT (0740 HKT)
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 0317 GMT (1117 HKT)
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0115 GMT (0915 HKT)
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT)
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 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