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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Argentina hands on Dirty War site
Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Argentine Navy mechanical school
The former torture centre will now become a museum
The navy in Argentina has formally handed possession to human rights groups of one of the most notorious buildings used during military rule.

The Naval Mechanics School in the capital, Buenos Aires, will now be turned into a memorial museum.

An estimated 5,000 people are thought to have been tortured and killed there in the late 1970s to early 1980s.

Known as Esma from its Spanish initials, the school is a huge imposing building, part of the city's landscape.

It stands by the side of a busy main road.

During military rule in Argentina between 1976 and 1983, people drove past it daily, unaware that, inside, the military held thousands of prisoners.

Bodies dumped

Most were tortured and never emerged alive, their bodies dumped from planes into the nearby River Plate.

The former Maze prison in Northern Ireland

If that were not grim enough, the building also served as a maternity centre where babies were taken from their mothers and given to childless police and military couples.

The mothers were then usually killed.

Now, more than 30 years after the return to democracy, Defence Minister Nilda Garri formally handed the building over to human rights groups who plan to commemorate the estimated 30,000 people killed under military rule.

Photographer Marcelo Brodsky, whose brother Fernando disappeared after being taken to the Esma in 1979, said he still felt the site was charged with torture sessions, muffled screams, odours and sounds.

The museum, he said, will educate future generations of Argentines against state terror.

A torture victim gives his view on the new museum

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