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Justice For Argentina's 'Stolen Children;' 2 Dictators Convicted

Nearly four decades later, there's some solace for the families of young women in Argentina who were killed after giving birth under orders from the country's then-dictators. The women's babies — Argentina's "stolen children" — were then handed over to loyal members of the military.

Thursday, former dictators Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone were convicted "for the systematic stealing of babies from political prisoners," as The Associated Press writes. The wire service adds that:

"Videla, 86, was sentenced to 50 years in prison, while the 84-year-old Bignone got 15 years for their roles in the baby thefts. The prison time is symbolic, though, because both men have been behind bars for years following multiple convictions and life sentences for other crimes against humanity."

Back in March, Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep spoke with Francisco Goldman of The New Yorker about his report on "Children of the Dirty War." As Goldman reported:

"During the Process of National Reorganization — the military junta's grandiose name for the period of its rule, from 1976 to 1983 — as many as 30,000 people, mostly young Argentines, were disappeared. ...

"Approximately 30 percent of the disappeared were women. Some were abducted with their small children, and some, perhaps 3 percent, were pregnant, or became so while in detention, usually through rape by guards and torturers. Pregnant prisoners were routinely kept alive until they'd given birth. Sometimes the mothers were able to nurse their newborns, at least sporadically, for a few days, or even weeks, before the babies were taken from them and the mothers were 'transferred' — sent to their deaths, in the Dirty War's notorious nomenclature."

The New York Times says "some 500 babies born in jail were taken by the military." Today, the BBC posted an interview with one of the stolen children, Victoria Montenegro. It was difficult to learn of her birth mother's fate, she says, because she had grown up only knowing the couple who raised her. "With this verdict we are repairing what happened," she says. "This sentence is very liberating for me."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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