n 2010, Bessone and five policemen are put on trial for the illegal arrest and torture of 93 opponents, 17 of which are still disappeared.
PROCEDURE CALLED “FECED CASE”
Since 1984, a group of people who had been tortured in the cities of Rosario and Santa Fe (Santa Fe province), tries to obtain justice against its torturers. They had been detained by the Servicio de Informaciones of the provincial police then under the command of Chief of gendarmerie Agustín Feced followed by the Army commander Díaz Bessone. Nearly 2000 people were tortured there, many of them still disappeared or buried in the Rosario cemetery under NN (no name) or in still secret places.
In 1983, at the return of democracy, an investigation is opened by the Military Council, followed by an official procedure on 31 January 1984. In 1986, the military hospital announces that Agustín Feced had died but does not bring any proof of it.
In 1987, the case is closed after the promulgation by President Alfonsín of the Forced Obedience and Final Point laws (also known as ‘impunity laws’). In 1989, all the indicted military and police are pardoned by President Carlos Menem.
PROCEDURE CALLED “DIAZ BESSONE CASE ex-FECED”
After the abrogation of the immunity laws by President Néstor Kirchner in 2003, the case is re-opened on the 9 June 2004. After Feced’s death, the case is known as “Díaz Bessone Case ex-Feced”, as Bessone is the accused with higher rank. Five policemen are also accused. An investigation is opened in 2008 and 2009 (accumulation of cases n° 120 / 08, 91 / 08, 47 / 09 and 138 / 09).
Federal Oral Tribunal (TOF) n°2 of Rosario accuses Bessone and the five policemen of “illegal arrest by violent means of 93 persons of which 17 were murdered” in 1976 in the central police offices (Jefatura de Policía at the corner of the San Lorenzo and Dorrego streets of Rosario). That is where the secret detention centre known as Information Services was based under the command of Bessone.
Bessone himself is accused of 11 murders and illegal arrests and tortures of 51 persons. The TOF announces a trial for the 9 April 2010, postponed to the 27 April and finally to the 21 July 2010. There are 25 plaintiffs (survivors from the centre and families of victims) and ‘civil parts’ including the Association of families of missing people for political reasons, the Argentine chapter of the International Federation for Human Rights, H.I.J.O.S. (Children for Identity and Justice against oblivion and silence) and the National Secretariat for Human Rights. More than 180 witnesses are expected including several survivors.
On the 21 July, witnesses and survivors relate their ordeal and clearly identify their torturers among the accused. This takes several weeks. The plaintiffs lawyers place torture, murders and disappearances in the historical context and ask that a specific attention be given to sexual aggressions: systematic rape and sexual abuses, pregnant women forced to give birth under inhuman conditions, confiscation of babies, torture of babies before their mother, etc.
Beginning of October, the accused can defend themselves. For his defence, Díaz Bessone declares:
– In Argentina, there was a war because, even before the military government, the constitutional government of Isabel Perón had emitted Decrees 261 / 75 and 2770 / 75 ordering the armed forces “to execute the necessary operations to totally destroy the subversion”, actions that really start after [the coup d’Etat of] 24 March 1976, when the Armed forces take power and establish the “National Reorganisation Process”. Therefore I should be judged by a military tribunal. There has been no commission of penal crimes but the application of State policies coordinated by the Ministry of Defence…
– The Military Code of 1976 orders us “to apply combat power with maximum violence to destroy the subversives…”
– In a war, the enemy is not murdered, he is killed. He is not arrested, he is captured, tortured, interrogated. You do not ask an authorisation to act to a judge, as it was not ask to a judge permission to bomb Hiroshima…
– This a political trial, not a penal one.
– The tortures and murders were executed by the police, not by me.
– Military barracks were not secret detention centres but L.R.D., Places of reunion of detainees.
The defence lawyers of the general start using arguments based on the health of their client: he is unable to instruct them because he suffered a vascular attack. From then on, Bessone will follow the procedure under medical observation in an adjacent room or from the military hospital. When defence insists that their client is mentally disabled, the Court sends him to be examined by three experts linked to the Supreme Court who declare Bessone able to understand and follow the procedure.
The plaintiffs, the civil parts and the public prosecutor all ask the three judges to give a verdict of the highest severity against Bessone who is accused of illegal arrest, torture, murder and disappearance of dozens of persons. They also ask that the crimes be considered as genocide and/or crimes against humanity. For the public prosecution, all the events described by the witnesses show that they were executed under his direction, control and command. He cannot be accused of torture as he did not participate in them but he can be accused of homicides as he was in charge.
Verdict of the Court on 26 March 2012
On 26 March 2012, General Ramón Genaro Díaz Bessone is declared guilty of:
– Having illegally detained 47 persons abusing his functions with the use of violence;
– Having caused the death of 7 persons;
– Being a member of an illegal organisation ready to commit crimes against life, the freedom and integrity of persons, making it worse for being one of the commanders.
These crimes were considered as crimes against humanity. The crime of genocide cannot be retained but Argentina being signatory to the Four Geneva Conventions, even if the Army considered being in a state of war, it should have respected them.
Consequently, Ramón Díaz Bessone is sentenced to prison for life.
INVESTIGATION IN PROGRESS
Díaz Bessone is accused, with 15 other people, of torture and murder of several persons. This case is still under investigation (1 October 2012).