Released in the US on 21 October 2022, the Argentine film “Argentina, 1985” is a period piece of one of the most dramatic court cases in human history since the Nuremberg Trials: prosecuting the military heads responsible for the Guerra Sucia (Dirty War 1974-1983) and the regime (Proceso de Reorganizacion Nacional 1976-1983) that murdered, raped or disappeared many civilians. Led by prosecutors Julio Cesar Strassera and Luis Moreno Ocampo with a rag-tag group of non-lawyers under 30, the eventual Juicio a las Juntas (Trial of the Juntas) opened on 22 April 1985 and ended on 9 December with the sentencing of the heads.
In terms of legal history, this film shows that the Trial of the Juntas is a huge deal because unlike the Nuremberg Trials (held by a military court), the Trial takes place in a civilian court by a democratic government. It is the only trial of its kind in Latin American history that a democratic government goes to trial against a former military dictatorship within the same country and succeeds in holding those responsible. However, it wasn’t an easy process: many death threats, bomb threats, military threats, and sympathizers of the regime violently protested against the Trial. The police, which worked with the dictatorship, were not trusted to protect the prosecutors and the witnesses. The prosecuting team had to ask for survivors and have them appear in court despite the aforementioned threats. The team also had to somehow convince the sympathizers that the Juntas were in the awful wrong of their actions. In the end, the Juntas were successfully prosecuted and sentenced.
This film is a must-see for all. It illustrates the proper criminalization of war crimes, crimes against humanity and how to legally process so much information into a well-organized testimony that serves justice for those who were silenced. It also shows truly that absolutely NOBODY should be above the law in their respective countries.
Here’s a link from Strassera’s closing arguments in the Trial and showcasing two words that should resonate within countries that emerge from such darkness: ¡Nunca más! (Never Again!)