Reynaldo Bignone et al. (“Hospital Posadas”)

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Guarantees Against Impunity | Punishment | Amnesties | Statute of Limitations | Crimes Against Humanity | Deprivation of Liberty | Jus Cogens

Themes: Characteristics of the Crime | Related Crimes

The Court found proof that the surveillance group set up in the clandestine detention centre was subordinate to a task force of the Air Force which was created for the purposes of the “fight against subversion”. The Court held that the secluded house within the premises of the hospital used by the surveillance group was sufficient to carry out the kidnappings and torture. It dismissed the defence’s argument that the absence of special training or preparation showed that the accused were not part of the State apparatus. The Court found one of the accused responsible for the events because he ordered the military intervention in the hospital in his capacity as Minister of Social Welfare a few days before it was carried out. It deemed it irrelevant that some of the arrests took place once he had been replaced. It also confirmed the involvement of another accused in the kidnappings and torture, basing its finding on the fact that the detention centre was the operational base of his group and his place of residence during the occupation.

The Court held that the statute of limitations was inapplicable to the crime against humanity (of illegal deprivation of liberty). It recalled that domestic law is displaced by customary international law, "jus cogens" norms, and by a number of international conventions signed by the State, such as the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

The Court confirmed the sentences for the crime against humanity (of illegal deprivation of liberty committed by public officials) for all of the accused, along with the crime of torture for some of them. To determine the damage caused and the amount of sanction, the Court took into consideration issues such as the greater impact of a conduct deployed within the State apparatus and power, the number of events and the degree of violence.

Judgment Date

November 28, 2012

Country

Argentina

Judicial Body

Argentina - Federal Chamber of Criminal Appeals

Facts of the Case

In March 1976, few days after the coup d'état, the Posadas Hospital was occupied by a large number of heavily armed troops, following an intelligence report signalling activities linked to an opposition group within the hospital. In the following weeks, military authorities formed a surveillance group which occupied a residence located inside the hospital, setting up a clandestine detention centre. The surveillance group proceeded to kidnap members of the hospital staff, either inside the premises or in their homes, keeping them captive in the clandestine detention centre and subjecting them to torture.

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