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Three Federal Courts Rule Rights Law Is Constitutional

June 18, 1987

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Three federal courts ruled constitutional on Thursday a controversial new law that grants immunity to most officers accused of human rights abuses during 1976-83 military rule.

The pronouncements by courts in the Buenos Aires suburb of San Martin, in the northern city of Cordoba and in the northwestern city of Mendoza were the first in favor of the new law. There have been two rulings against it.

Human rights groups have appealed to the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional, saying it is a virtual amnesty and violates the right to equal treatment of the accused under Argentine law.

On Monday, the federal court in the southern port of Bahia Blanca agreed with that argument, saying the law was unconstitutional.

Last week, a federal judge in the Buenos Aires suburb of Moron also ruled the law unconstitutional in reference to the case of paramilitary agent Raul Tevez, accused of human rights atrocities while he worked for the military in a prison hospital.

Tevez claimed he should also benefit from the law because he took orders from a military superior.

It will be up to the Supreme Court to settle the conflicting rulings. Court sources say the five-member board is expected to rule in favor of the law’s constitutionality next week.

The measure, passed by Congress at the behest of President Raul Alfonsin and signed into law on June 8, says officers and security agents ranked brigadier general and below are to be absolved of any wrongdoing if they can prove they were following superiors’ orders.

Under the so-called ″due obedience″ law, about 200 of the 250 officers accused of kidnapping, torturing or killing thousands of suspected leftists during the ″dirty war″ of 1976-83 are to be freed from prosecution.

A presidential investigatory panel has documented the disappearance of 9,000 people during the anti-subversion campaign waged by the rightist military regime that preceded Alfonsin’s election to office in 1983. Human rights groups say the actual number of people who vanished is closer to 30,000.

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