Jorge Rafael Videla, the former dictator of Argentina, has testified that he never ordered the taking of babies from their detained mothers during his reign from 1976 to 1983. He has been charged with the theft of 34 babies from detainees who were then murdered.
"If the removal of an underage minor took place," Videla testified on Tuesday, "it was not because of an implicit order framed in a systemic plan coming from the upper ranks of the armed forces during the years of the war against terrorism."
His words, however, directly contradict statements made in 2010, when Videla asserted: "I accept the responsibility as the highest military authority during the internal war. My subordinates followed my orders," he told the Argentine court during his first trial for human rights violations. He was found guilty and sentenced to life behind bars.
Human rights organizations estimate that up to 30,000 people were killed in a government-led crackdown. Some of those were in fact the children of dissidents captured and placed in detention centers before being killed. Many of the children were kidnapped, then illegally adopted by members of the regime.
"All the pregnant ones referred to in the suit and by prosecutors were active militants of a mechanism of terror," Videla asserted, "and many of them used their child embryos as human shields when they operated as fighters."
If found guilty of kidnapping, Videla could face as many as 50 years behind bars in addition to the two life sentences he is already serving. He has said during this trail that the trial is "a quest for revenge by those defeated by the military" in the 1970s.
"I will assume under protest the unjust sentence that I might be given for my contribution in the achievement of national harmony," he said.