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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 22:21 GMT
Amnesty case gives new hope
cavallo
Judge Gabriel Cavallo: Ruling may open door on cases
By Latin American correspondent Tom Gibb

The ruling by an Argentine judge declaring two amnesty laws from the 1980s unconstitutional could have a far-reaching impact across Latin America.

Pictures of the
People from all walks of life "disappeared" under military rule
As military regimes gave way to democratically-elected governments across Latin America, everywhere amnesty laws were passed.

These were usually designed to prevent prosecution of those leaving power for the dirty wars they carried out in previous decades.

In Argentina, between 15,000 and 30,000 people were killed or "disappeared".

Children murdered

But in many countries, crimes against children or kidnapping were not included in the amnesty laws, so this is where human-rights lawyers have concentrated their efforts.

The present case before the Argentine courts involves an eight-month-old baby girl kidnapped along with her parents, who are presumed to have been killed.

Judge Gabriel Cavallo's ruling in the case, if upheld by higher courts, will set a precedent allowing many other cases to be reopened.

Human rights lawyers in other countries are also concentrating on the cases of children.

In El Salvador and Guatemala, thousands of children were murdered by the army or else kidnapped to be placed in orphanages or sold for adoption.

They are now turning up as teenagers as far away as the United States, Canada and Europe.

Lawyers tracing them also want to use the threat of prosecution to try to force military officers to give information.

The case in Argentina could be an important precedent for them as well.

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See also:

06 Mar 01 | Americas
Argentinian judge revokes amnesty
19 Aug 98 | Crossing Continents
The Living Disappeared
12 Feb 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Argentina's missing babies
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