Buenos Aires: Sexual abuse committed during Argentina`s 1976-1983 dictatorship at the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), a notorious torture center, will for the first time undergo a separate probe, authorities said.
"Sexual aggressions were not isolated cases: it was a systematic practice under a secret plan of repression and extermination launched by the state," said judge Sergio Torres after deciding to open a separate inquiry into 20 cases of rape and other sexual abuse.
Until now, sex assaults on regime opponents detained at ESMA were grouped with torture in crimes against humanity trials against members of the military junta.
"Rape is a completely separate crime, as serious as torture," said Lorena Balardini, a specialist at the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), which has led efforts to defend human rights since the end of the Argentinian dictatorship.
Some 30,000 people went missing under the dictatorship, according to rights groups. Around 5,000 of them were tortured by ESMA and then killed.