Ex-Argentine officer faces genocide charges

A former Argentine Naval officer arrived in Spain on Sunday from Mexico to face charges of genocide and “terrorism” allegedly committed under Argentina’s 1970s and 1980s “dirty war”.

Cavallo (L) faced public wrath 
in Mexico

Ricardo Cavallo, who denies the charges, was extradited from Mexico on Saturday in what activists hailed as a landmark for human rights.

High profile Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, known for his attempt to bring former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to trial, had requested Cavallo’s extradition from Mexico in August 2000. Garzon has charged Cavallo with crimes during Argentina’s 1976-83 military rule.

Up to 30,000 people were killed or “disappeared” in the Argentine military’s war against leftist guerrillas and their supporters. Many were tortured, drugged and thrown from aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean.

Cavallo allegedly worked in the notorious School of Naval Mechanics in Buenos Aires, which served as a secret torture centre under military rule.

At least 5,000 people were detained or disappeared there. 

As he boarded the plane in Mexico, Cavallo was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Victims of Argentina’s junta screamed ‘killer’ and ‘criminal’ as he passed by in a bullet-proof vehicle. 

Cavallo (L) denies the charges

HRW Praise

“This is the first time ever that one country has extradited a person to another country to stand trial for human rights crimes that happened in a third,” said Reed Brody, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York late on Saturday.

Earlier this month, Mexico’s highest court ordered Cavallo’s extradition on charges of “terrorism” and genocide although it dismissed the charge of torture.

Cavallo ran a government concession for a national car registry programme in Mexico until a Mexican newspaper accused him of being a former “dirty war” intelligence agent.

He was arrested in the Caribbean resort of Cancun in August 2000 bound for Argentina, where he would probably not face trial because of an amnesty for “dirty war” participants.