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The ‘Dirty War’ - a timeline

Argentina's military junta, in power between 1976 and 1983, is accused of having ordered the disappearance of around 9,000 people in what has since been known as the "Dirty War". After a 13-year amnesty, the trials of its leaders are back on track.


1974: After President Peron’s death, his widow María Estela Martínez becomes head of state. Argentina plunges into chaos as the government is unable to respond to terrorist actions from far-left groups including the ERP and Montoneros. The first state-sponsored death squads appear.

1976: A military junta seizes power in March. Its leaders proclaim the start of a “National Reorganisation Process”. Hundreds of people are held in detention centres across the country, while thousands flee into exile.

1978: The football World Cup is held in Argentina, with little international awareness of what is happening in the country.

April – June 1982: A weakened military regime invades and occupies the British-controlled Falkland Islands in an effort to shore up flagging support. After a three-month war, the British army reclaims control.

December 1983: Civilian rule is restored in Argentina.

1984: The Argentinian Truth Commission issues its report on the human rights violations during the dictatorship, recording approximately 9,000 cases of forced disappearance. The report, called “Never again”, becomes the best-selling book of the decade in Argentina.

1985: Several top military commanders are convicted to life imprisonment during the “Trial of the Juntas”.

1986-1987: In an effort to preserve a fragile democracy, President Raul Alfonsin’s government signs two controversial laws, setting a deadline for human rights violations trials to begin and allowing officers to claim that they were merely following orders. The laws effectively prevent the majority of officers from being prosecuted.

1990: President Carlos Menem, elected in 1989, issues a general pardon aimed at fostering national reconciliation. The few convicted military leaders are freed.

2003: Congress repeals the “pardon laws”, paving the way for the resumption of trials against military officers accused of human rights violations.

2005: French nun Léonie Duquet’s body is found in a mass grave. There is still no trace of Alice Domon.

2006: Former police commissioner Miguel Etchecolatz is the first officer convicted since the repeal of amnesty laws. The verdict describes the junta’s state terrorism as a form of genocide.

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