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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 August, 2003, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Press reflects doubts over Argentine vote
Women holds up photo of missing relative
Tens of thousands disappeared during the military regime

Argentina's leading dailies reflect the uncertainty which has emerged after the congressional vote to annul the amnesty laws protecting members of the former military regime from prosecution on charges of human rights abuses.

While numerous front-page pictures show emotional scenes outside Congress among supporters of the vote, considerable doubts are expressed over the vote's repercussions.

The fact that some of the country's major political movements either opposed the move or abstained from voting also serves to indicate the splits over the issue in Argentine society.

The justice system could ultimately render this whole process meaningless

Cronica's front page headlines "The collapse of the laws " and "Impunity bites the dust" are followed by reports hailing "the historic session" which voted to annul the amnesty law and "unleashed a huge celebration among the crowd in front of Congress".

Boos and jeers

However the news the Radical Party of former President Raul Alfonsin - who promulgated the laws in the 1980s - had abstained triggered a "tide of boos and jeers" from the crowd.

The country's top circulation Clarin cast doubt on the efficacy of the vote, saying experts considered it "a major political act but with little juridical value".

"The issue now goes before the Senate, which harbours doubts about it. There is no certainty as yet."

Continuing the theme, Clarin concludes: "It's the legal system and the courts which decide the validity of the laws, and the justice system could ultimately render this whole process meaningless."

Just like with the Nazis, wherever they go, we'll seek them out
Chanters quoted in Clarin

One MP spoke about "the renewal of our self-esteem", says another report in Clarin, while the announcement of the vote "generated tears and embraces".

It quotes a voice in the crowd outside Congress as shouting: "Now we're going to put an end to this damn immunity".

And further cries of: "Just like with the Nazis, wherever they go, we'll seek them out."


The issue of extraditing officials charged with committing human rights abuses during the so-called dirty war is also tackled in Clarin. Spain is one country seeking the extradition of Argentines it says have a case to answer.

The daily quotes constitutional expert Daniel Sabsay as saying that if the laws are finally annulled, the need for extradition will disappear as the trials could take place in Argentina.

We twisted the arm of impunity
MP Patricia Walsh in Pagina 12

La Prensa carries a headline "Against the pardon" and is more optimistic that the Senate will make it law, "despite the juridical objections which have surfaced".

Cronica says that passions were running high during the lengthy, eight-hour debate. One MP spoke of the "moral and ethical nadir of the laws" while another spoke of "the debt Argentina owes to human rights".

'Beautiful day'

Pagina 12 notes the success of the vote "after years of frustrated attempts to overturn the laws", crediting the leftist MP Patricia Walsh for "pursuing the issue tenaciously".

Ms Walsh told the daily that as the result of "a huge battle", "we twisted the arm of impunity".

What a beautiful day!
MP Ricardo Falú in Pagina 12

"To use clever legal arguments to maintain impunity is a real problem. One often feels uncomfortable asking if the real issue isn't that those guilty of genocide are walking the streets in liberty," she said. "Who said we couldn't do it."

Pagina 12 gives the final word to MP Ricardo Falú. "What a beautiful day! What beauty!"

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The BBC's Jeremy Frankel
"For the thousands gathered outside congress it was a dream come true"

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