Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2010 > Seeking Justice For Crimes Against Humanity: The case of Argentina

Seeking Justice For Crimes Against Humanity: The case of Argentina

  • Speaker: Judge Sergio Gabriel Torres
  • Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt
  • Date and time: Thursday 4 November 2010, 6.30-8pm.
  • Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE.



In Argentina, during the last military government (1976-1983), there was a process of massive and systematic violations of human rights, the consequences of which still linger today.

What happened in Argentina was not an isolated case. The 20th century witnessed systematic violations of fundamental rights in different regions of the world. The answers to those crimes were different: private vengeance, amnesties, regular trials, truth and reconciliation commissions, international tribunals or simply oblivion.

In 1983, upon the return of democracy in Argentina a series of developments took place which clearly showed the progress and setbacks in the quest to achieve justice. The tension between justice and impunity recorded several episodes. Amongst them, the creation of a non-judicial commission to investigate the disappearance of persons, criminal trials against the members of the military juntas, the enactment of amnesty laws and later other laws declaring their invalidity, constitutional reform and rulings of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Finally, the investigations of crimes against humanity carried out by Argentina's judicial system -some of them already with sentences and others still ongoing- resulted in several achievements, not always free of difficulties. This has proved a progress in order to consolidate a concept of justice. Furthermore, the unprecedented nature of the experience (the prosecution of abhorrent crimes where they took place, investigating the responsibility of all involved) could be hailed as an international precedent in this area.


Judge Sergio Gabriel Torres is a Federal Judge in Criminal and Correctional Matters in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He presides over the ESMA case, which involves more than 800 cases of illegal detentions, torture, disappearances and deaths committed at the Navy School of Mechanics, (ESMA) where one of the largest clandestine detention centers operated during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

Graduated from the University of Buenos Aires, he has specialized in criminal law and criminology. He holds an International Masters Degree on New Criminal Offences and a PHd in Juridical Sciences. He is Professor on Criminal Law at the University of Buenos Aires and the University of Lomas de Zamora. He is also a Visiting Professor at several universities in Argentina, Spain and Mexico and Professor 'Honoris Causa' at the the Autonomous Universities of Tlaxcala, Tamaulipas and Teotihuacan, México. He is the Director of Post Graduate Studies on Criminal Law and Criminology and of the International Masters Degree on New Criminal Offences at the Universidad del Salvador (Argentina) and the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). He is the Academic Vice President for Argentina at the Ibero-American Criminal Law Institute with headquarters in Mexico.

Judge Torres is also a member of numerous academic committees on public and private institutions and has lectured and published widely in Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Perú, Brazil and Spain. He is former Federal Prosecutor and Judge of Criminal Investigation and has also participated as a juror in the appointment of federal judges.

Chetan Bhatt is Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and Professor of Sociology.

Event Recording

There is an audio recording of this event available on the Centre's podcast page