Dictatorship-era repressor Miguel Etchecolatz’s house arrest has been revoked by the country’s highest criminal court, paving the way for his return to prison.
Etchecolatz, 88, has been convicted multiple times of crimes against humanity and is serving life sentences but was granted house arrest in December 2017 after a sustained campaign to be granted the benefit. A series of rulings in 2016 and 2017 found that the high-ranking member of Buenos Aires provincial police during military dictatorships was eligible for house arrest on medical grounds.
Etchecolatz was responsible for at least 21 illegal detention centers during the dictatorship and was right-hand man to Ramón Camps, the chief of the Buenos Aires provincial police and perpetrator of human rights violations. He has been found guilty of being criminally responsible of torture, rape and executions.
Today those medical grounds were thrown out as a reason for house arrest by the Crimianl Cassation Court, which in a split decision found that there were no reasons for Etchecolatz’s medical problems to qualify him for house arrest.
Judges Mariano Hernán Borinsky and Gustavo M. Hornos ruled that Etchecolatz’s health “did not prevent him from being held in a penitentiary while receiving the appropriate medical attention and checks for his pathologies.” Judge Juan Carlos Gemignani wrote a dissenting opinion, noting that while there was an obligation for persons convicted of crimes against humanity to be punished for their actions, the rights of those convicted could not be ignored.
Hornos wrote that “it must be noted that above and beyond the age of the prisoner, the granting of house arrest is a decision that cannot be taken automatically or without reflection by the simple invocation of one of the legal conditions, that in theory, make granting house arrest possible.” For Hornos, the granting of house arrest is only applicable under specific conditions.
After the Etchecolatz was transferred to his home in the bosque Peralta Ramos area of Mar del Plata, he was met with protests from activists who repudiated his presence and called for the house arrest to be revoked.
Many of those protesting in Mar del Plata wore Jorge Julio López masks (a dictatorship victim who disappeared in 2006 after testifying against Etchecolatz in a human rights trial). Etchecolatz or his associates have been suspected by activists of being behind López’s disappearance.