January 9, 2000
Argentine human rights group hails arrests of retired military officers

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- A human rights group on Sunday
                  applauded the arrest of a group of retired naval officers who are accused of
                  kidnapping children born to dissidents during the 1976-83 dictatorship.

                  Estela de Carlotto, president of the human rights group Grandmothers of the
                  Plaza de Mayo, called the arrests a significant step towards bringing the
                  leaders of the former military junta to justice.

                  Carlotto said the arrests could help reveal valuable information on whether
                  the babies were taken on orders of the junta's top officers. The former
                  military leaders have denied such a plan ever existed.

                  Those arrested "should be ordered to reveal everything they know," she

                  Arrested late Friday, the six officers are suspected of taking 12 babies from
                  political opponents held captive at a military base. Some are accused of
                  illegally adopting babies.

                  The accused are detained in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, 250 miles
                  south of Buenos Aires. The arrests bring the number of former military
                  officials held in the investigation to 15. Many of the junta's former leaders are
                  already under house arrest.

                  Carlotto said she would meet on Monday with one of two judges
                  investigating the cases to offer additional information. The group says it has
                  proof of altered birth certificates and wants blood samples taken from some
                  of the children to determine whether their true parents were among those
                  who disappeared during the dictatorship.

                  Officials are investigating whether there was a systematic plan for the illicit
                  adoption of more than 200 children born during the military's seven-year
                  campaign against leftists and political opponents.

                  The children's mothers are among at least 9,000 Argentines who vanished at
                  the hands of the junta's troops during the country's so-called "dirty war" two
                  decades ago. Human rights groups say the figure is closer to 30,000.

                  The probe was spurred by a report by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de
                  Mayo that identified 60 children born to mothers in captivity. Some of the
                  mothers were bound and blindfolded while giving birth in the detention
                  centers, the group says.

                  As a result of the investigation, nine of the top leaders are being held,
                  including former Gen. Jorge Videla, the regime's first president, and former
                  navy chief, Adm. Emilio Massera.

                  Many senior leaders of the regime were sentenced to life in prison in 1985
                  after public trials found them guilty of human rights abuses. Five years later,
                  then-President Carlos Menem pardoned the imprisoned leaders, along with
                  all middle- and senior-ranking officers.

                  Human rights groups have since worked to find loopholes in the pardon to
                  bring the former military officials to justice. Charges of child kidnapping are
                  not covered by the pardon.

                    Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.