Argentina: A number of NGOs speak out against the stance taken by the French Public Prosecutor’s office on the extradition procedure of Mario Sandoval

Press release
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Paris, Buenos Aires, 10th February 2015 - On 18th February next, the Supreme Court of Appeals will rule whether Mario Sandoval, former member of the federal police force under the Argentinean dictatorship, can be extradited to Argentina to stand trial for crimes against humanity. The allegations made by the Public Prosecutor, at the hearings on 21st January last, contravene jurisprudence and the international obligations entered into by France. This position worries our organizations, who want the Supreme Court of Appeals to confirm the extradition of Mario Sandoval to Argentina.

"The Supreme Court of Appeals must rule in accordance with French jurisprudence and the international commitments of France. Justice should allow for the extradition of Mario Sandoval in order for him to be tried under the Argentinean justice system for crimes against humanity perpetrated during the dictatorship, and for the victims, at last, to obtain the truth, justice and reparation" , as our organizations have stated.

During the hearing on 21st January last, in the first place, the Public Prosecutor took into account the fact that crimes against humanity were not punished under Argentinean law at the time of the dictatorship, thus refusing to take into consideration both the Argentinean Constitution of 1994 and the rulings of the Argentinean Supreme Court, which on many occasions has deemed that the enforced disappearances and the atrocities perpetrated during the seventies constitute crimes against humanity.

Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor requested that the Supreme Court of Appeals not recognize the crime of enforced disappearance as a continuing offence. Rehearsing the arguments put forward by Mario Sandoval’s defence, the Assistant Public Prosecutor said as follows: "The dictatorship came to an end in December 1983 and it is unlikely that H. Abriata, was still held captive after that date.” Our organizations are of the view that this position, contrary to French jurisprudence, constitutes a serious violation of France’s international obligations.

To cast doubt on the fact that this crime qualifies as a continuing offence would run counter to a tenet of French, Argentinean and international jurisprudence. The Paris Criminal Court, drawing on the continuing nature of the crime of forced disappearance, on 17 December 2010, tried and convicted a number of Chilean and Argentinean officials for perpetrating the disappearance of Franco-Argentinean citizens during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Furthermore, France pushed for and ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance whose Article 8 1b stipulates the incontrovertible continuing nature of this offence which endures until such time as the fate of the disappeared person is resolved.

Argentina’s request for extradition is based on the charges concerning the disappearance of Hernán Abriata, student of Architecture, abducted from his home on 30th October 1976. The Argentinean Justice System accuses Mario Sandoval of illegal deprivation of freedom with aggravating circumstances and of torture, facts that constitute crimes against humanity, perpetrated at the Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA). The investigatory chamber of the Paris Supreme Court of Appeals handed down an opinion in favour of the extradition to Argentina of Mario Sandoval on 28th May 2014.

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