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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 22:37 GMT
Grim account of Argentine deaths
Adolfo Scilingo in court
Scilingo's trial is the first for crimes against humanity in another country
A Spanish court has heard dramatic evidence at the trial of an Argentine ex-naval officer accused of crimes against humanity nearly 30 years ago.

In a taped confession, Adolfo Scilingo described how pregnant detainees at a naval school in Buenos Aires had their babies taken away for adoption.

He also spoke of how officers at the school cremated the bodies of those who died during interrogation.

Mr Scilingo has since recanted the confession, made eight years ago.

Earlier this week, he told the court in Madrid that his confession was made-up and designed to provoke an investigation of Argentina's former military rulers.

I was not conscious that the order was immoral
Adolfo Scilingo

Human rights groups say around 30,000 perceived political opponents disappeared or were killed during Argentina's so-called dirty war between 1976 and 1983.

Mr Scilingo faces charges of war crimes, genocide, torture and terrorism in Spain's first trial of a person for human rights abuses allegedly committed in another country.

He denies the charges.

Under Spanish law, people accused of crimes against humanity committed elsewhere can be tried in Spain.

'Death flights'

Mr Scilingo, 58, stared at the floor as the court heard a second day of excerpts from a tape recording made by Spain's judicial authorities in 1997.

He was heard describing abuses at a naval school - one of the most notorious torture centres of Argentina's former military regime.

For humanitarian reasons, the pregnant women could not be moved. I mean, eliminated
Adolfo Scilingo

Dissidents were taken to a Buenos Aires airport, drugged by navy doctors, hustled aboard air force plane, stripped, and thrown alive into the ocean.

There were 180-200 "death flights" in 1977 and 1978, killing thousands of people, he said.

"When the major gave the order, we just had to drop them. I was not conscious that the order was immoral," he said.

He said he participated in two flights: one with 13 people aboard and another with 17.

Illegal adoptions

Mr Scilingo, who was the chief electrician at the school, also described how pregnant detainees had their newborn babies taken away from them.

"For humanitarian reasons, the pregnant women could not be moved. I mean, eliminated. We had to wait until they gave birth," he said.

Doctors who delivered babies signed birth certificates in which the children were given the names of the people adopting them, he added.

The goal "was to keep the children from falling into the subversive mentality of their parents", he was heard saying.

Mr Scilingo also spoke of how officials at the school cremated the bodies of people who died of injuries suffered while under interrogation.

He said these cremations were referred to as roastings.

In 1995, Mr Scilingo told a journalist about the "death flights".

In 1997 and 1998, he told the death flight story under oath in a Spanish investigation, but later denied he was involved.

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10 Jan 02 |  Crossing Continents

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