Skip to main content

Trial over terrifying 'Operation Condor' under way

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 11:13 AM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
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
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
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