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Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 22:55 GMT
Judge's ruling sparks fierce debate
La courts, Buenos Aires
Argentina's law courts will be kept busy in the coming weeks
The decision by an Argentine judge to revoke two amnesty laws protecting military officers accused of human rights abuses during the 1976-1983 military regime has drawn a sharp response

La Nacion described the move as a "lamentable retreat" likely to dig up old wounds, while the business daily Ambito Financiero said it had created an "uproar returning the country to the pre-1986 era", before the military amnesty had become law.

Military reaction

Another major daily, Clarin, quoted Army chief General Ricardo Brinzoni as saying: "It has become a political problem, and requires a political solution."

Words which some may have found reassuring.

However, according to the national daily La Razon, General Brinzoni together with nearly 700 of his military comrades "reacted angrily to the news". The general described it as "a retrograde move".


I respect the decisions of the judiciary, but it is always dangerous to put the clocks back 20 years in any nation

Raul Alfonsin in La Razon
Clarin pointed out that Judge Gabriel Cavallo's ruling required the endorsement of the nation's Supreme Court before it became valid.

It also said that the ruling would not affect those who had been sentenced then subsequently pardoned.

Constitutional debate

The constitutional niceties of the case were debated in the opinion columns of La Razon.

Gregorio Badeni thought the two amnesty laws in question "cannot be judicially amended as they are political acts of Congress and not susceptible to judicial control".

But constitutional lawyer Jorge Reynaldo Vanossi argued that the laws were "not promulgated to give immunity to aberrant crimes".


It would be lamentable if this wrong judicial decision led to the renewal of conflict and spite which caused so much damage to the spiritual and moral health of Argentine society

La Nacion
"The investigation can go ahead without invoking the law's unconstitutionality. The desire of some judges to stand out leads them on occasions to use the unconstitutionality argument unnecessarily."

Another La Razon, from Argentina's second city, Cordoba, published a series of comments from a number of leading figures.

They included former President Raul Alfonsin, under whose leadership the amnesty laws were promulgated.

"I respect the decisions of the judiciary, but it is always dangerous to put the clocks back 20 years in any nation," Mr Alfonsin said.

Former army chief Martin Balza, acknowledged to have been a progressive military leader, said: "No law is going to impede the search for the truth. Those who stole the children of the disappeared are miserable thieving creatures."

Former President Raul Alfonsin
Raul Alfonsin followed the military regime
In an editorial, La Nacion condemned Judge Cavallo's decision as "a lamentable retreat in the march towards the consolidation of a society seeking to put behind it a painful past".

"It would be lamentable if this wrong judicial decision led to the renewal of conflict and spite which caused so much damage to the spiritual and moral health of Argentine society."

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.

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