France extradites university professor wanted in Argentina for crimes against humanity
France has extradited a former Argentine police officer accused by Argentina of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship of the military junta between 1976 and 1983.
Mario Sandoval, 66, was arrested on Wednesday at his home in Nogent-sur-Marne, a Paris suburb, after the rejection of one of his last appeals.
Argentine prosecutors based their extradition request on one case – that of student Hernán Abriata, who disappeared in detention in 1976, but the former police officer is suspected of having participated in more than 500 murders and kidnappings during the Argentine dictatorship.
Those cases relate to murder, torture and kidnapping. Court documents in Argentina note that he was nicknamed “Churrasco” (Spanish for steak) – the term used for a metal bed frame on which detainees were electrocuted.
The Argentine dictatorship “disappeared” about 30,000 people during the “Dirty War” against suspected leftists and political dissidents.
Sandoval, who has dismissed the accusations as fabrications, fled Argentina after the military junta fell and had lived in France since 1985, where he had become a professor at the Sorbonne’s Institute of Latin American Studies (IHEAL), in Paris, and the University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, outside the French capital.
Sandoval launched multiple appeals against his extradition, arguing that he could not receive a fair trial in Argentina and could be subject to torture and ill treatment. But his appeals to the European Court of human rights to take up his case failed.
The French council of state, which advises the government on legal matters, approved his extradition in August 2018, leading Sandoval to appeal.
The constitutional council determined that no statute of limitations could be applied to an “ongoing” case, citing the fact that Abriata’s body was never found.
According to the testimony of another young man kidnapped by the security forces of the dictatorship, Abriata was tortured at the School of Mechanics of the Navy (ESMA), used as a clandestine detention centre, and was last seen between January 4 and 5, 1977, when he was transferred to a still unknown destination.