María Estela Martínez de Perón, better known as Isabel Perón, was born in La Rioja, Argentina, on 4 February 1931. She worked as a dancer in a night club when she met former Argentine president Juan Domingo Perón, who had lost his second wife Eva (Evita) in 1952. The couple got married in 1961 during Perón’s Spanish exile.
After his return to Argentina, Juan Perón was re-elected president in 1973. His wife Isabel was made vice-president.
After less than one year in office, Perón died on 1 July 1974. Isabel quickly assumed his position to prevent elections. During her presidency, she was perceived as inexperienced in political matters and as a puppet of her late husband’s powerful companions.
The Peronists persecuted their opponents, often resorting to violence. Opposition groups reacted with increased use of violence on their part. Abductions and strikes were common during Isabel’s presidency, which ended in 1976 and was followed by a military dictatorship (time of the “dirty war”).
On 24 March 1976, Isabel Perón was put under house arrest. She was convicted of corruption in 1981, but released shortly afterwards and sent into exile in Spain.
Isabel Perón lives near Madrid in Spain and does no longer engage in political activity.
On 12 January 2007, an Argentine judge issued an international arrest warrant against Isabel Perón. She is wanted for questioning over the disappearance of leftist activist Héctor Aldo Fagetti Gallego in February 1976.
The inquiry further concerns three decrees allowing Argentina’s armed forces to take action against “subversives”, which Isabel Perón signed during her presidency.
On 16 January 2007, she had to face new charges regarding her links to the anti-communist death squad “Triple A” (Alianza Anticomunista Argentina).
Shortly after her arrest, Isabel Perón was released due to her age and her failing health and has to appear at a police station every 15 days.
Argentina requested Isabel Perón’s extradition but as a Spanish citizen, the extradition procedure was brought behind the National Court of Spain (la Audiencia Nacional).
In April 2008, the National Court of Spain rejected the requests of the Argentine justice, considering that the facts blamed against Isabel Peron may not be qualified as crimes against humanity, but as “extrajudicial and politic motivations”.
In December 1986, the Argentinean Parliament adopted a law called “final point,” which set a statute of limitation of 60 days for offences against international law committed in Argentina.
In May 1987, Parliament approved a second amnesty law called “due obedience,” which exempted from trial all military subordinates who had obeyed orders. This left only about thirty high-ranked military officers to face prosecution. The only crimes not covered by this law – and for which subordinates could still be tried – was theft, rape and the kidnapping of children. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of this law in June 1987.
By December 1990 the first amnesty decrees were signed.
In all, 1195 members of the military who had participated in the junta received amnesty: 730 because of the “final point” law, 379 with the “due obedience” law, 49 declared by the Supreme Court and 42 by amnesty decrees.
In mid-August 2003, the new Argentinean president, Nestor Kirchner, had the amnesty laws repealed and the absence of statutes of limitation for crimes against humanity recognized.
Prosecutions of those involved in the junta once again became possible in Argentina.
Twenty former military personnel are being held in Argentina for crimes committed within the framework of the “Condor” plan. The total number of soldiers in detention and charged under Argentinean law for human rights violations amounts to 120 – to which should be added two Argentineans held in Spain. Some of these proceedings concern cases where children were forcibly taken away at birth from their mothers who had been imprisoned for political reasons. In the opinion of the judges, the amnesty law never covered this crime. (Source: Le Monde, January 5, 2005).
On 14 June 2005, the Argentinean Supreme Court declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional, by 7 votes in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention,– “Ley de Punto Final”; Ley 23.492- and the Due Obedience Law – “Ley de Obediencia debida”; Ley 23.521- sanctioned by President Alfonsin in 1987. The Court maintained that these laws violated article 75, paragraph 22 of the 1994 Argentinean Constitution, which gives constitutional status to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to the Genocide Convention, to the Torture Convention and to the Inter-American Convention, among others. According to the Court, following diverse decisions by the Inter-American Court and by other international bodies, the State has an obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those who have committed violations of the right to life, to humane treatment or those who have engaged in disappearances, an obligation which cannot be limited or abolished by the enactment of an Amnesty or Due Obedience Laws as ruled by the Inter-American Court in the case of Barrios Altos v. Peru.
This historical decision allows the domestic or international investigation, prosecution and punishment of members of the military suspected to have taken part in the torture, disappearance and/or killings of more than 30,000 persons in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
On 20 September 2006, during the course of the trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, the court for the town of La Plata used the term “genocide” for the crimes committed by the military dictatorship (1976-1983). It was the first time these crimes were qualified as genocide by a court, just like human rights organisations had long argued they should be. This legal qualification is now contained in the judgment against former police officer Etchecolatz, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for torture, murder and abduction of opponents of the regime.
The court emphasised that the crimes were committed in the context of a genocide campaign organised by the state. For future procedures against former members of the police force and the military, this view could be of crucial importance.