Yesterday, the former Air Force chief Omar Graffigna and former Buenos Aires province Regional Intelligence head Luis Tomás Trillo were sentenced to 25 years in jail for forcefully disappearing and torturing a couple, José Pérez Rojo and Patricia Roisinblit, as well as abducting their newborn child in 1978. A fellow repressor, Francisco Gómez, was also sentenced to jail for being an accessory to their kidnapping and illegally appropriating their child.
Pérez Rojo and Roisinblit were both left-wing activists at a time when the military dictatorship that was in power was hellbent on stamping out “leftist insurgencies” and “political subversion” for the good of the country. They were abducted in 1978 from their home with their 15 month old daughter. Roisinblit was eight months pregnant at the time. Their daughter, Mariana Eva, was released during the initial abduction and stayed with a family member.
The two were taken to the Regional Intelligence Centre of Buenos Aires (RIBA), which was under the Air Force’s jurisdiction and run by Trillo. Pérez Rojo was kept there and Roisinblit was transferred after two months to the infamous clandestine detention and torture center at the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA), the biggest of its kind that was at the epicenter of the appropriation of newborn babies.
Roisinblit gave birth to a son during detention. They had planned to name him Rodolfo Fernando: instead, he was handed over to a civilian who worked for the military govenrment, Francisco Gómez, and named Guillermo.
Pérez Rojo and Roisinblit were never seen again, presumably killed by the military dictatorship.
The practice of handing over the children of victims to members of the military or someone who knew someone who was in the military was common in those days and Gómez was sentenced to 12 years in prison yesterday. Mariana found Guillermo in 2000, when the two took DNA tests that confirmed they were related.
Guillermo’s discovery of his real identity and testimonies by several people who were held in captivity with Roisinblit were key to closing in on the Air Force as responsible for their disappearance. Roisinblit had described her initial place of captivity in western Buenos Aires Province, which nobody could identify, but her fellow detainees repeated over the years. When Guillermo was found and identified as Roisinblit’s son, the puzzle pieces began to fit into place because Gómez, his appropriator, was an Air Force intelligence officer and worked at the RIBA, located in Morón.
This is Graffigna’s first sentence for crimes against humanity: he was acquitted in the 1985 trials against the military juntas for charges of abduction, torture and homicide.
The victims’ relatives and friends were present in the courtroom when the verdicts were read out. Graffigna made a final statement in which he did not express any remorse for his actions. Graffigna described his actions as “purely professional.”
The plaintiffs in the case were Mariana, Guillermo Gómez’s lawyer Pablo Llonto and the Human Rights Secretariat at both the federal and provincial level. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo were also involved via Patricia Roisinblit’s mother, Rosa, who is the Vice President of the organization that seeks to find children born in captivity and illegally abducted during the military dictatorship. Ninety-year-old Rosa cried when the verdicts were read out.
“I see that justice takes time, but it does arrive,” Rosa said. “It’s an emotional moment and there is satisfaction but we haven’t finished yet. There are many grandchildren that we have yet to find.”