Skip to main content

Argentine police officers accused of torture that appears on video

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Sat July 21, 2012
A YouTube video appears to show several police officers torturing young male suspects in Argentina.
A YouTube video appears to show several police officers torturing young male suspects in Argentina.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Six officers are arrested after video appears on YouTube
  • Video shows men in underwear being interrogated
  • Video shot in the town of General Guemes in the province of Salta

(CNN) -- An anonymous video that appears to show several police officers torturing young male suspects in Argentina has outraged many people in the South American country.

The video prompted a swift reaction from Argentine authorities. Eduardo Sylvester, security minister in Salta province, asked a judge to issue arrest warrants against the police officers accused of being involved in the incident, according to Telam, Argentina's state news agency. Five officers were arrested Thursday night, the agency said.

On Friday, a sixth officer was arrested, said a police official who asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media.

The video, posted on YouTube, shows two young men wearing only their underwear. They are surrounded by several men in civilian clothes who are apparently the police officers implicated in the case.

The suspects are being held in a patio. A high concrete wall is seen in the background. The men in civilian clothes are shown pouring water on the suspects.

At one point, an interrogator asks a question. The suspect in the foreground replies in a fearful voice, "I swear to you that I don't know anything about it." He repeats the sentence several times. His interrogator then covers his head with a plastic bag, ties it around his neck and grabs the suspect by the head.

The suspect starts yelling, then shaking and finally drops to the floor. The interrogator takes the bag off his head and the suspect is seen on the floor gasping for air.

Another suspect is shown kneeling on the floor with his hands tied behind his back and being held up by one of the interrogators while another pours water on his head.

The police source said officials believe the video was shot by one of the arrested officers. Officials don't know who posted the video to YouTube he said.

Sylvester told CNN affiliate Canal 13 that officials acted quickly because, "We, the government of Salta province, are strongly convinced that these police officers are not representative of who we truly are and we are not going to tolerate under any circumstances that officers commit this kind of crime."

The video was shot in the town of General Guemes in the northwestern Argentine province of Salta. It was filmed between September and November 2011, the police source said. The two suspects had been detained for misdemeanors and were freed soon after the incident, the source said. They are expected to testify against the officers, he added.

Maria del Carmen Verdu, the director of an organization that monitors police brutality, known by its Spanish acronym CORREPI, said such incidents are common throughout Argentina.

"Torture is a common tool which is applied constantly in many detention centers and even to suspects held at police station cells before their court appearance," Verdu said. "We have been able to prove it multiple times in court through oral testimonies of the victims."

The police source said, "I don't agree that it's a common occurrence, but I can't deny that this happens either."

Argentines are especially sensitive to police and military brutality. It is estimated as many as 30,000 people were killed or disappeared during the country's military dictatorship, the period known as the Dirty War, which lasted from 1976 until 1983.

Guillermo Fontana in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT