November 18, 2001

Argentina rejects 'Dirty War' extradition requests

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) --Argentina has rejected extradition
requests for former army Gen. Guillermo Suarez Mason and 18 others wanted
in connection with atrocities committed during the 1976-83 dictatorship,
officials said.

Suarez Mason was sought for prosecution in the German city of Nuremberg in
connection with the 1977 abduction and killing of a German citizen, Elisabeth
Kasemann, during the so-called "Dirty War."

Argentine authorities rejected an Italian extradition request this year for the same
officer, who had commanded the key Buenos Aires military zone during the
dictatorship's crackdown on leftist dissidents and other foes.

Defense Ministry officials said Argentina had rejected the petition for Suarez Mason
on the grounds of "territorial principle" -- that any acts committed on Argentine soil
are matters for local courts to judge.

Defense Minister Horacio Jaunarena signed the resolution Friday rejecting extradition
of Suarez Mason as well as 18 other military officials and former police wanted by
overseas courts.

During the dictatorship, Kaseman was a university economics student in Argentina
involved in a leftist movement. Abducted in March 1977, she was reported to have
been held and tortured at a clandestine detention center before being handcuffed,
hooded and taken out and shot dead on May 24, 1977.

According to a prosecutor's account, she was killed with shots to the nape of the
neck and to the back.

Nuremberg court authorities contend that Suarez Mason was ultimately responsible
even though he is not accused of direct involvement in the actual abduction or

But as chief of the first army corps and commander of the Buenos Aires zone of the
army in 1977, court officials allege he had absolute power to make life-and-death
decisions involving those detained in the state-led crackdown.

Suarez Mason, now 74, is under house arrest by a judge probing separate
accusations that babies born to mothers in captivity at clandestine detention centers
during the "Dirty War" had been abducted and their identities changed.

In the other decision, officials said they had rejected a request by Spanish magistrate
Baltasar Garzon for 18 former military officers or police agents sought on
accusations of genocide, terrorism and torture involving Spanish citizens during the

Many of those sought by Garzon reputedly had worked at the Navy Mechanics
School, a military academy in suburban Buenos Aires that housed one of the
most-feared detention centers of the dictatorship. Others were police or state agents
in Santa Fe province north of Buenos Aires.

Jaunarena signed the resolutions rejecting extraditions in place of Foreign Minister
Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini, who was traveling Friday with President Fernando
De la Rua in Europe.

The "territorial principle" has been invoked on several occasions in the past when
foreign courts have sought the extradition of military officers wanted for the
disappearance and killing of foreign citizens during the past dictatorship.

Argentina contends many military officers already were tried for human rights
abuses before their subsequent pardon last decade under then-President Carlos

At least 9,000 people are officially listed as disappeared or dead from the so-called
"Dirty War" that right-wing military officers waged on leftists and other political
dissidents they opposed during the dictatorship. Human rights organizations put the
toll of dead and missing at nearly 30,000.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.