Fifty years ago, under the authoritarian government of then President Alejandro Agustín Lanusse, 19 Argentine political prisoners were awakened from sleep, lined up against a wall and shot by their military captors, leaving only three survivors of what became known as the Trelew Massacre. of 1972. Of the four military officers who allegedly carried out the murder of these prisoners, three were convicted in Argentina. But the fourth, Roberto Guillermo Bravo, has lived in Miami for 50 years and has not been tried for his alleged crimes.
Next month, a civil trial will begin in federal court against Bravo, now 79, who lives in a North Miami waterfront home he bought for $1.6 million in 2016. All four plaintiffs are family members of the Massacre victims. from Trelew Raquel Camps, Eduardo Cappello, Alicia Krueger, and Marcela Santucho. His complaint (attached at the end of this article) alleges that Bravo personally participated in the torture, humiliation, and death or injury of his loved ones in Argentina. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“Defendant Bravo…subjected inmates to humiliating and degrading treatment amounting to torture, including sleep deprivation, stressful postures, forced nudity, and mock executions,” the complaint, filed in October 2020, states. “Bravo and the other officers opened fire on the prisoners with machine guns and pistols.”
According to the complaint, it is alleged that Bravo personally ordered and supervised the torture of the family members of the plaintiffs. The victims were political prisoners who had spoken out against then President Alejandro Agustín Lanusse and were taken from their homes in Buenos Aires and imprisoned in a maximum security center in southern Argentina. In August 1972, 25 of those prisoners tried to escape, but only six managed to escape. The remaining 19 were recaptured and taken to the Almirante Zar Naval Base in Trelew, where they were stripped naked, threatened, deprived of sleep, and finally repeatedly killed on August 22, 1972.
#Trelew Massacre 48 years ago, at a naval base in Trelew, 19 political prisoners were shot. 3 survived and told the story, but were later killed. We demand the extradition of the rifleman Roberto Bravo, arrested in the US.#Neither Forget nor Forgive#TrialAndPunishment pic.twitter.com/LJ3EeVF6xd
— Miguel Bru Association (@CasaMiguelBru) August 22, 2020
The complaint alleges that Bravo forced prisoners to work naked and threatened them when they did not comply with orders, at one point noting that prisoners should be killed rather than held.
“He forced prisoner Mariano Pujadas to undress and sweep the floor while he was naked. Bravo and the other officers staged a mock shooting of some inmates. Bravo told a subordinate that they should kill the inmates instead of feeding them,” the complaint reads.
Bravo’s lead attorney in the case, Neal Sonnett, says New Times that his client maintains his innocence, and that the accusations against him are false.
“The lawsuit against Roberto Bravo is legally wrong, factually false and morally bankrupt,” Sonnett writes in an emailed statement. “The events denounced took place almost 50 years ago… [Bravo] continues to vigorously deny these false accusations and will vigorously defend this lawsuit and his honor.”
Sonnett points out that attempts to extradite Bravo to Argentina to face criminal charges failed in US courts
In 2010, denying the Argentine government’s effort to extradite Bravo, a US federal court found that Bravo was protected by an Argentine amnesty law and had been acquitted by a military court.
“[A federal judge] found that Mr. Bravo had been acquitted in Argentina of any wrongdoing and that the charges brought in Argentina more than 30 years later were ‘political crimes’ prohibited by our Extradition Treaty,” writes Sonnett.
The other three officers allegedly involved in the incident, Luis Sosa, Emilio Del Real and Carlos Marandino, were convicted by an Argentine criminal court in 2012 and sentenced to life in prison for killing the unarmed prisoners.
Despite the Argentine government again seeking to extradite Bravo for prosecution, the civil suit is ongoing in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA), a US law their families to seek civil damages against the perpetrators.
The TVPA applies “even to crimes that have occurred abroad,” explains Ela Matthews, a senior attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), a nonprofit firm that files civil lawsuits against perpetrators of crimes. of war and the so-called crimes against humanity. . (Last year, the CJA won a landmark case under the TVPA against Moses Thomas, a Liberian army colonel who was accused of carrying out the murder of 600 civilians at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia in 1990.)
Barring any delays or postponements, jury selection in Bravo’s case is scheduled to begin in June.
“For 50 years, the defendant has not faced any kind of responsibility while living freely in the US, and the plaintiffs have been trying to get justice for decades,” says Matthew. “This is the opportunity to get that justice with respect to Bravo.”