Presentation by Judge Jorge Edwin Torlasco

Photo by Norito Hagino

Today we went to the downtown area to meet 
with Judge Jorge Edwin Torlasco, who was one of the six judges that presided over the trial against the heads of the Argentinean state during the 1976-1983 military regime. 

Mr. Torlasco explained that during the first years of the regime, he and other judges did notice that something bad was happening in the country. Even though the legal system no longer functioned, they still received requests for information on people who were disappeared or demands to prosecuting someone who was known to be involved in these disappearances. When president Raul Alfonsin came to power in 1983, the judicial system was restored and the president himself advocated for prosecuting the military juntas. At first, the military’s judicial system was to preside over the trials but, after months of waiting, the civilian judges took over and on April 22, 1985 the “Trial Against the Military Juntas” began. During the 5 months the trial lasted, 500 witnesses gave their testimonies, which were considered the most revealing of the atrocities of the regime. In the end, the members of the military juntas were found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to prison; some were given 4 years while others were given life sentences. 

Soka University students with Judge Torlasco
Photo by Norito Hagino

Mr. Torlasco told us he thinks the trial happened in Argentina (unlike many other countries
in Latin America where similar atrocities occurred), firstly because of the president’s commitment to justice, and secondly because Argentina had reached “a turning point in its history.” The people had over and over seen the political situation deteriorate and by the end of the military regime, the country was ready to put a stop to decades of violence.

When asked what the main challenge of the trial was he responded that, unlike what people often believe, finding evidence was the least of their difficulties, since crimes of this magnitude leave behind thousands of trails. Instead, the main challenge was the sole fact of having the trial. “People didn’t believe this was possible,” he said, “our friends didn’t believe, our families didn’t believe, so just proposing to have this trial was the most difficult part.” Even though the military regime had ended, the military still had power and posed a serious threat to those involved in the trial. 

Mr. Torlasco also shared that, because he had to spend five months listening to testimonies, by the end of the process he thought he had grown accustomed to it. However, the last week of the trial all six judges broke to tears when a nurse, who had been held in a detention center and tortured for days, told her story. He also told us the story of a young man who also gave his testimony in the trial. After being imprisoned for a long time with three other friends, he had managed to escape from the detention center. While they hid in a basement, one of his friends went out to look for help. After a couple of hours, this young man saw a car approaching… it was his dad’s. “Every time I think of this story, I’m moved” Mr. Torlasco shared, “just imagine, being saved by your own father.” 

Judge Toralsco
Photo by Norito Hagino
Mr. Torlasco told us he believes what occurred was not genocide because the people who died were not all from one group. Instead, he said, what occurred was a crime against humanity. He also said that after revising the evidence during the trial, the judges concluded that 9.000 people had been disappeared; instead of the 30.000 the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo believe were disappeared. 

We had the honour of listening to Mr. Torlasco read the sentence to the military juntas. Being able to hear it from was of the six judges was very moving and we share this moment with you in this video. 

Speaking with Mr. Torlasco was a unique experience that helped us understand the magnitude and importance of the trial against the military juntas.

In this clip, Judge Jorge Edwin Torlasco describes how the story of the men who escaped from the detention center Mansion Sere still moves him.

In this clip, Judge Torlasco shares with us the complete story of the men who escaped from the detention center.

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