September 9, 1999
Argentina minister says Dirty War 'closed chapter'

                  BERLIN (Reuters) -- Argentina's Justice Minister Raul Granillo Ocampo
                  said his government would like to prosecute criminals from the Dirty War
                  era, but did not have the authority because there were laws "that close the

                  Speaking to a group of journalists in Berlin on Wednesday evening, Ocampo
                  said laws introduced in the 1980s had made it impossible to pursue crimes
                  committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

                  "We hate what happened and we would like to help these people (who want
                  to see justice)," he said at a news conference at the Konrad Adenauer
                  Foundation, a German think tank.

                  "But we cannot put ourselves above the laws of Argentina," he said,
                  speaking in English. "We cannot accept a violation of these principles."

                  Many political opponents of the military regime were tortured and killed
                  following the military coup in 1976. Some were drugged and then dropped
                  into the sea from planes. Many bodies washed up on Uruguayan shores.

                  Human rights groups estimate the so-called Dirty War claimed 30,000 lives
                  but official records list 15,000 dead. Pardons were given to most armed
                  forces officers once democracy was restored in 1983.

                  "These people are out of reach of the judicial system," Ocampo added. He
                  said that he was aware of a growing interest from victims' relatives and other
                  interest groups in reopening criminal proceedings.

                  "We can respect this," he said, and there was little else the government could
                  do. "There are laws in Argentina that clearly close this chapter and there is
                  no possibility of reopening the trial of these people."

                  He said it was understandable some were disappointed.

                  "We are not working in favour of one group. I am sure there will be people
                  who will be disappointed. In a democracy it is not possible to respect the
                  wishes of all the people. You have to respect the wishes of most of the

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.