Today, Julio César Strassera, an important figure in Argentina’s human rights history died. Strassera was the chief prosecutor in the military junta trials that took place in 1985, trials that were significant in that they were conducted by a civilian court in a democratic government against leaders of the previous military dictatorship. In total, there were 9 leaders who stood trial, including Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Eduardo Massera, and Roberto Eduardo Viola. General Videla and Admiral Massera were sentenced to life in prison, General Viola received seventeen years (two others — Admiral Lambruschini and General Agosti received eight years and four and half years respectively; the remaining accused were acquitted).
Despite these convictions, the Full Stop Law (1986) and the Law of Due Obedience (1987) prevented any further prosecutions of perpetrators; under President Carlos Menem, those who were sentenced or court-martialed received pardons (during the years 1989-1990). In the years of impunity that followed, the activism of human rights groups and the ongoing symbolic power of the CONADEP “Nunca Más” Truth Commission Report continued the efforts to attain justice in relation to the crimes of that time. Under President Néstor Kirchner, the laws were overturned, opening the way for new human rights trials to begin again, taking up the call of “never again” voiced by Strassera during the first military junta trials, where he famously said:
“I wish to use a phrase that is not my own, because it already belongs to all the Argentine people. Your Honors: “Never again!” (Nunca mas!)”