REMARKABLE things are happening in Argentina, with a little help from a campaigning lawyer in Spain. When Nestor Kirchner won the Argentinian Presidential election three months ago little was known about him outside the country and those who voted for him probably did so more in hope than expectation that he would repair some of the economic ravages inflicted on the nation by Carlos Menem and his successor Eduardo Duhalde. “I will not be the prisoner of the big corporations” was just about the only newsworthy statement Sr Kirchner made during his campaign and if he said anything about human rights it was not widely reported. The country has therefore been amazed to find that in three short months its new president has persuaded the Chamber of Deputies to overturn the laws passed in the mid–1980s that granted immunity to military officers for crimes committed during the 1970s “dirty war” in which thousands of Argentinians were tortured and murdered by the military – the figure of those who “disappeared” is put at 30'000 by Argentinian human rights organisations. President Kirchner who was himself a prisoner of the military in the 1970s has removed the top layer of the armed forced and lifted a ban on the extradition of former officers to stand trial abroad. This is where Spain's activist Judge Baltazar Garzon enters the picture. In a replay of his attempts to extradite President Pinochet of Chile from Britain for crimes against humanity, he is seeking to extradite Argentinian officers responsible for the deaths of Spanish citizizens so that they can be tried in Spanish courts.


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