Santiago Omar Riveros
Santiago Omar Riveros was born on 4 August 1923 in Villa Dolores, Córdoba in Argentina. He was a militar. During the dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1783), he was in charge of the detention center of Campo de Mayo, near Buenos Aires, one of the biggest military bases in Argentina.
During the military regime in Argentina, it is estimated that 30’000 people “disappeared”, were victims of extrajudicial executions and were tortured. Around 5000 of them were detained at Campo de Mayo.
On 15 May 1976, Floreal Avellaneda, who was 15 years old at the time, and his mother Iris Pereyra de Avellaneda were abducted by a group of men and were then brought to Villa Martelli commissariat, Buenos Aires. There, they were tortured with the purpose revealing the whereabouts of Avellaneda’s father, who was in charge of a communist syndicate. Afterward, Avellaneda and his mother were moved to Campo de Mayo. In August 1976, Floreal was found dead on the bank of the Rio de la Plata, on the Uruguayan coast. It is believed that he was thrown in the Rio de la Plata from a plane flying from Campo de Mayo.
Santiago Omar Riveros was accused of having tortured and killed the young Floreal Avellanda and of having abducted his mother Iris Pereyra for two years.
In 1985, Santiago Omar Riveros was condemned in Argentina for the crimes of abduction, torture and assassination, and then amnestied in October 1989 by the Argentine president Carlos Menem.
In December 2000, the Criminal Court of Rome sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment two Argentine generals, Riveros and ,for the murder and the disappearance of eight Italians nationals during the Argentine military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.
In 2006, the amnesty granted to Riveros was declared unconstitutional. On 13 July 2007, the Supreme Court of Argentina cancelled the presidential amnesty of 1989 that prevented Riveros from being prosecuted.
CASE FLOREAL AVELLANEDA
On 27 April 2009, a trial started before the Federal Tribunal No.1 of San Martín, Buenos Aires, for the death of Floreal Avellaneda and the abduction of his mother, Iris Pereyra de Avellaneda.
On 13 August 2009, the Federal Court of San Martin in Argentina sentenced Riveros, then aged 86, to life imprisonment.
Related to this case, the chief of the intelligence services Fernando Exequiel Verplaetsen was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment and general Jorge Osvaldo Garcia to 18 years. The officers Raúl Harcich and Cesar Fragni to 8 years, and the police commissioner Albert Aneto received a sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
CASE CAMPO DE MAYO 1
On 2 November 2009, a new trial began against Riveros before the Federal Criminal Oral Tribunal No. 1 of San Martin for crimes against humanity committed in Campo de Mayo against 56 individuals between 1976 and 1978.
On 20 April 2010, Riveros the Federal Criminal Oral Tribunal No. 1 of San Martin sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity. He was found guilty of involvement in 56 cases of murder, torture, deprivation of liberty and illegal break-ins.
The Tribunal also sentenced Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone to 25 years in prison; Fernando Exequiel Verplaetsen to 25 years in prison; Carlos Alberto Roque Tepedino to 20 years; Jorge Osvaldo Garcia to 18 years and; Eugenio Guanabens Perello to 17 years in prison.
CASE CAMPO DE MAYO 2
A second trial for Campo de Mayo started on 27 September 2010.
On 14 April 2011, the San Martin Federal Tribunal sentenced Riveros to life imprisonment. The Tribunal found him guilty of illegal deprivation of liberty, torture, and aggravated murder.
The Tribunal also sentenced to life imprisonment Luis Abelardo Patti (Chief of police), Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone and Martín Rodríguez.
THE WIDESPREAD KIDNAPPING OF CHILDREN
On 28 February 2011, the Federal Criminal Tribunal No. 6 in Argentina reinitiated proceedings against Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone, together with six other former military officials, among them Riveros, accused of the systematic taking, retaining, hiding and changing of identities of minors whose parent died or disappeared during the Argentinean military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.
On 5 July 2012, the Federal Tribunal No. 6 of Buenos Aires sentenced Riveros to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity, in particular for the implementation of a systematic plan to steal and appropriate 31 minors during last military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.
The Court also sentenced Jorge Rafael Videla to 50 years in prison, Antonio Vañek to 40 years, Jorge Eduardo Acosta to 30 years, Reynaldo Bignone to 15 years, Víctor Gallo to 15 years, Juan Antonio Azic to 14 years, Jorge Luis Magnacco to 10 years and Inés Susana Colombo to 5 years in prison.
CASE CAMPO DE MAYO 3
On 12 March 2013, Riveros was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Federal Criminal Oral Tribunal No. 1 of San Martin for crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship in Campo de Mayo against 20 victims.
The tribunal also sentenced Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone, Luis Sadi Pepa, Eduardo Oscar Corrado and Carlos Tomás Macedra to life imprisonment. Carlos José Somoza was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Hugo Castagno Monge and Julio San Román to 20 years, Eugenio Guanabens Perello to 16 years, Carlos del Señor Hidalgo Garzón to 15 years and María Francisca Morillo to 12 years.
TRIAL OF “OPERATION CONDOR”
On 5 March 2013, the “Operation Condor” trial started in Buenos Aires in which 25 accused, including Riveros, were charged with crimes against humanity committed from 1976 until 1983. Operation Condor was a plan set up by the dictators of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay in the 1970s and 80s which allowed secret police units to cross into one another’s territory to kidnap, torture and kill political opponents who had fled across the border.
On 27 May 2016, Riveros was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity, Bignone received a sentence of 20 years imprisonment, and the rest of the accused were sentenced to between 8 and 25 years in prison. Two individuals were acquitted.
In addition, a separate trial started on 12 February 2015 in Rome to try the main instigators of “Plan Condor”. Riveros, along with 31 individuals from Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay, is charged with the murder and disappearance of more than 50 opponents during the military dictatorship. Most of the accused, including Riveros, will be tried in absentia.
CASE OF THE NEWBORN ABDUCTION
In 2014 a trial was held before the Federal Oral Tribunal No. 6 in Buenos Aires for the abduction of newborn babies at Campo de Mayor during the military dictatorship. The medical personnel of the secret maternity centre, together with Reynaldo Bignone and Riveros, were accused of the theft and concealment of minors less than ten years of age, and of the suppression of the civil status of a minor during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
On 22 December 2014, the court convicted a doctor, a midwife, Bignone and Riveros. In particular, Riveros was found guilty in his capacity of head of the area where the clandestine maternity ward operated. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
TRIAL “COLEGIO MILITAR DE LA NACION”
In September 2016, Federal Oral Tribunal I in San Martin began another trial against Riveros, as well as Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone, and several others. The trial concerned alleged crimes against humanity committed against six conscripts of the Military College of the Nation who were performing their compulsory military service. Between 1976 and 1977, ex-conscripts Luis Daniel Garcia, Luis Pablo Steimberg, Sergio Omar Garcia, Hugo Nestor Carballo, Roberto Nestor Britos and Mario Vicente Molfino were deprived of their liberty or kidnapped. The whereabouts of three of them are still unknown.
On 15 March 2017, Federal Oral Tribunal I sentenced Riveros and Bignone to a life sentence. A life sentence was also handed down to their co-accused, Mario Ruben Dominguez. Five other accused, all former military, were given prison sentences between three and 15 years.
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.