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Leaders of Argentina's Last Military Dictatorship Under House Arrest - 2002-09-13

One of the leaders of Argentina's last military dictatorship and 25 other former military chiefs have been placed under house arrest. A judge is investigating charges they abused human rights during Argentina's seven years of the so-called "Dirty War."

The decision to place former dictator Leopoldo Galtieri under "preventative arrest" means he will be detained while an investigative judge looks into charges the former dictator abused human rights during the military rule.

The same goes for former Army General Carlos Guillermo Suárez Masón and 24 other ex-military chiefs.

General Galtieri was charged earlier this summer.

He and the others are also accused of leading a death squad during a campaign to wipe out left-wing insurgents, and they're suspected of ordering or taking part in the execution of at least 20 Montonero guerilla fighters.

Human rights groups estimate as many as 30,000 people disappeared during the dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. Their remains were never recovered.

So far, prosecutors have had a hard time trying to bring suspected human rights abusers to justice.

A series of amnesty laws and pardons from previous Argentine goverments have protected former military leaders. But in the last few years, a series of court decisions declared those laws null and void. That opened the doors to the arrests this summer, and to Thursday's ruling by an administrative judge to proceed.

Last month the U.S. State Department declassified nearly 5,000 pages of documents, many of which detailed abuses General Galtieri allegedly committed. It's not clear if those documents will be used in his prosecution.

General Galtieri resigned as Argentine President in June 1982 after his troops were humiliated in defeat by British troops in the battle to control the disputed Falkland Islands.