Federal Oral Court Number 6 yesterday granted house arrest to Miguel Etchecolatz, an emblematic death squad leader of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, although previous rulings deny him the benefit.
The court understood that Etchecolatz, 91, serving several concurrent life sentences for multiple crimes against humanity, should receive the benefit of house arrest in line with "eminently humanitarian considerations."
He must, however, remain at the Campo de Mayo prison where he has been held since last April, after La Plata’s Tribunal Oral Federal 1 court denied him house arrest in another case involving dictatorship crimes for which he was convicted.
The ex-inspector headed the Buenos Aires provincial police detective squad between the 1976 March coup and late 1977, running 21 clandestine detention centres.
In late 2017 he had already clinched house arrest in court but the appeals of the families of his victims and multiple demonstrations of repudiation induced the Cassation Court to revoke the benefit, returning him to prison two months later.
Among the many crimes against humanity for which Etchecolatz was convicted was the infamous La Noche de los Lápices (“The night of the pencils”) – the abduction, torture and slaying of a group of La Plata secondary school pupils seeking lower bus fares for students.
Over 850 former military and police officers have received stiff sentences for crimes against humanity since the late president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) repealed previous amnesty legislation.
Human rights organisations calculate the missing during the dictatorship at around 30,000 and the illegally adopted babies born to political prisoners at 500, of whom 128 have been returned to their true families thanks to the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.