At the end of March 2023, a man and a woman appeared under the balcony of an elegant pink villa in Fornari, a seaside tourist resort in the province of Messina. The two shook hands Signal With an inscription in Spanish: Juicio y castigo a los genocidas escondidos (“Try and convict those responsible for the genocide who remain in hiding”»). The two people are Sonia Bongiovanni and Matthias Giovanti, director and deputy director Our votean Italian association that deals, among other things, with the families of people who disappeared in South America during the dictatorships at the end of the twentieth century, the so-called. disappear.
Inside the pink house lives Carlos Luis Malato, a 74-year-old former Argentine soldier, who during the time of Jorge Videla's dictatorship, that is, between the 1970s and 1980s, was among the leaders of a military squad known for its brutality against political opponents. . The period of protest was not accidental: in Argentina every March 24 is celebrated as Truth and Justice Memorial Day, to remember the victims of the political violence of the Videla regime, which took power on March 24, 1976.
Malato fled Argentina in 2011 to escape prosecution against his band. He had sought refuge in Italy because of his dual Italian and Argentinian citizenship. For years, the Italian authorities refused extradition requests submitted by Argentina. But in the summer of 2022, the Rome Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation against him, and over the course of months many activists and Policy They spoke out about the Malato case in hopes of achieving something tangible.
Their efforts have been rewarded. Malato was arraigned on Tuesday, January 9 became known His trial will begin on April 22. “I hope the law will prosecute him and give him a chance that my father never gave me,” he said. guardian Viviana Arias, the daughter of a man kidnapped by the army in 1976 in San Juan, the city where the Malato band was active. Arias' father was never found.
Videla's regime was one of the harshest regimes in South American history towards political opponents, trade unionists, and journalists. Tens of thousands of people were arrested for ridiculous reasons, detained and tortured. Between 10 thousand and 30 thousand people Then they disappeared without a trace (there is no official count). They were likely killed by the regime, but for many of them there is no official explanation for what happened to them.
The Videla regime's violence against opponents was part of Plan Condor, known in Italy as Operation Condor. It was a practice carried out in the 1970s and 1980s by some right-wing dictatorships in South America such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay, in cooperation with the United States, to eliminate all forms of dissent through violence and torture. and targeted killings. Over the following decades, those responsible for Operation Condor were convicted in various trials around the world.
Over the years, several trials have been held in Argentina for soldiers participating in Operation Condor E disappear.
In 2012, the Federal Court in Buenos Aires sentenced Videla to 50 years in prison, the maximum sentence expected, for giving children up for adoption. disappear To soldiers and regime officials. But the following year, a major trial was held disappear In the province of San Juan, a region in central Argentina on the border with Chile, the defendants in the trial are the commanders of the 22nd Mountain Infantry Regiment (called RIM22 in internal language), that is, the army division that was active in the province. Who were given orders by the central command to deal with people it classified as “saboteurs.”
The regiment's commanders were Colonel Juan Bautista Menvel and Lieutenant Colonel Adolfo Díaz Quiroga. Both were already dead at the time of the trial. The other five officers who make up the General Staff are Lieutenants Carlos Luis Malato and Jorge Antonio Oliveira, Major Arturo Ruben Ortega, Captain Claudio Antonio Sainz and Sergeant Alejandro F. Manuel Lazo, all of whom are still alive.
The five officers and other members of RIM22 were accused of various crimes of torture, murder, unlawful deprivation of liberty, sexual violence and illicit association, based on the testimonies of survivors and relatives of some people. disappear. In the ruling issued by the San Juan Court, Rebuilt The treatment assigned by RIM22 to people arrested for vandalism. The translation of the sentence was edited by the Italian association 24Marzo, which works for victims of political violence.
At RIM 22, victims were subjected to their first interrogation sessions under torture. Almost all of them reported the use of electric shocks in a “grill,” described as a bed without a mattress, where hands and feet were bound. […] The severity of the torture gradually increased. The victims described the first session as “softening” sessions. They were always questioned about the same aspects (names of armed colleagues, meeting places, presence of weapons, etc., associated with groups considered “subversive”). After torture – and always blindfolded – they were forced to sign statements that were incorporated into the judicial files processed on charges of violating the law.
After torture and interrogation, some people spent time in prison and were released: others disappeared into thin air. Oliveira and Lazo were sentenced to life and ten years in prison, respectively, along with other junior members of RIM22, while Malato was not convicted: he was already in Italy, and since Argentine law does not provide that a person can be tried if this is not present. in 1190 pages of sentence His name was mentioned 296 times.
However, Malato was considered by the Argentine authorities to be a central figure in RIM22. Already in 2011 they asked Italy to extradite him so he could be tried. After a complex judicial process, the Italian Court of Cassation in 2014 rejected the request of the Argentine authorities because “the documents sent do not allow us to conclude that there are serious elements of an accusation against us,” the ruling said. In practice, the Court of Cassation questioned whether the evidence presented by Argentina was sufficient to convict Malato if extradited. Argentina tried again in 2022 with a new extradition request, but at the same time it also tried another method.
In November 2022, Federico Efron, head of the Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Justice, arrived in Italy and handed over some 10,000 pages of documents related to Malato to the Rome prosecutor's office, explicitly requesting an indictment against him. Prosecutor's Office in Rome The investigation has already been underway for a few months After a complaint from another Argentine authority. “The evidence shows how the repressive apparatus worked and how RIM22 is located where Malato is located in San Juan,” She said Efron to reporters gathered outside the district attorney's office.
Some relatives of RIM22 victims also live in Italy. Among them is Argentine businessman Mariano Peltes, who lived in Sicily for twenty years and recently died. Belts was the son of Jorge Belts, a journalist who was arrested in 1976 and tortured for nearly three weeks by RIM22. Mariano Belts had discovered only a few years ago that he lived about a half-hour drive from where Malato lived, and had since tried to contact him several times.
In 2021 I am waiting Under his house in Furnari with RAI's Spotlight editorial team, holding an old photo of his father in his hand. Malato did not answer him and avoided several questions from the journalist who accompanied Beltz.
Various Italian newspapers and television programs tried to talk to Malato over time, without getting official answers. In 2019 he tried Republicwhich It has been resumed A patient is shirtless on his balcony, without getting an interview. In the same year Hyenas Get to know him Near his boat, anchored a short distance from the house. Malato again declined to comment on the charges against him.
Malato is not the first South American soldier involved in Operation Condor to be subject to a trial initiated by an open investigation conducted by the Rome Prosecutor's Office: the trial of Jorge Nestor Troccoli, a repatriated Italian soldier of Uruguayan origin, has been ongoing for almost a year and a half on trial for the murder of three Italian citizens, among others. others, At the end of the seventies in Uruguay.
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