Argentina: provincial police accused of torture

crime | Jul 20, 2012 | By Martin Barillas


Five police officers in Argentina have been arrested in the province of Salta, which borders Chile, following the release of a video that appears to show the torture of two detainees at a police station in the South American republic.  The arrest of the officers came on July 18 after a complaint was filed by the chief of the provincial police with the Salta’s Ministry of Security. 
The video, which has been widely circulated on the Internet, shows a group of police officers as they interrogating two young men who were nearly nude. The video shows that a bucket of water was thrown over one of the men under interrogation, while another had a plastic bag tied over his head. It is believed that the incident took place at the police station at General Güemes, approximately 35 miles from the provincial capital. The alleged tortured is currently being investigated by a local judge. Officers belonging to the Dangerous Drugs Division in the town have refused to testify.
Eduardo Sylvester, Salta’s minister of security, s referred to the arrested officers as “criminals”, who are “not representative of Salta’s police force.” Said Sylvester, “We will not tolerate that members of the police force who commit these crimes.”
In 2011, a similar incident took place in Mendoza, a province located to the south. A video there revealed the beatings meted out by prison guards on men incarcerated there. Human rights activist María del Carmen Verdú said of the more recent horror, “What happened in Salta is only notable because it came out and has become public knowledge. It only appears to be a novel situation when in reality it is something that is reported on a daily basis, that is systematic.”
According to Verdú, the majority of cases of torture and mistreatment is difficult to prove. Few of the accused are brought before justice. According to an Argentine nonprofit watchdog group, CORREPI, since the restoration of democracy in Argentina in 1983 until November 2011, Argentina’s security forces have been responsible for the deaths of at least 3,408 persons. According to Verdú, approximately 40 percent of these deaths were a result of torture committed in police stations, jails and prisons, or juvenile lock-ups. In the 1970s and early 1980s, under several governments, Argentina's police forces and military were responsible for systematic torture, murders, and disappearances of Argentine dissidents, human rights activists, leftists, Jews, and others who were considered enemies of the state. 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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