Christian Federico von Wernich, who was born in 1938 and who is of German origin, became chaplain of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police in 1976.
Von Wernich was accused of having abused his position in the clergy in order to obtain information from political prisoners during confession.
One of the most serious crimes in which von Wernich was said to have participated was that of the “group of seven” (Grupo de los siete) students who he allegedly “broke” during confessions and who were later killed. It was alleged that he often visited the relatives of the seven students asking for money and telling them that their children would soon be released if they cooperated. He allegedly promised the same to the students, as in the case of Cecilia Idiart, who later was murdered.
The report “Nunca Más” (“Never Again”) produced by the National Commission on the Disappeared (CONADEP), contained important information about the role played by von Wernich during the repression and about his alleged complicity in torture and arbitrary detention. The report related several testimonies implicating the churchman. An Argentinean official, for instance, who had taken part in the killing of a member of the opposition in the presence of Von Wernich later testified: “Father Von Wernich saw that what had happened had shocked me, and so spoke to me telling me that what we had done was necessary; it was a patriotic act and God knew that it was for the good of the country. “
After the end of the dictatorship, von Wernich was sent by the church to the Parish of 9 July some 250 kilometres from Buenos Aires where he remained until 1996. After that, he moved to Chile where he worked as a priest in El Quisco under the false name of Cristian Gonzalez.
In 2003, he was discovered there by Hernan Brienza, a journalist who was investigating his involvement in the crimes and who was the author of “Maldito tu eres”, a book on the links between von Wernich and the repressive regime in Argentina. As a consequence, in May 2003, von Wernich resigned from all his priestly duties.
Von Wernich was arrested in 2003, after the Constitutional Court had declared as being unconstitutional the Amnesty Law (“Ley de Punto Final”) and the Due Obedience Law (“Ley de Obediencia debida”).