Italy’s Justice Minister has declined Argentina’s request to extradite a priest accused of crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.
The accused, Reverend Franco Reverberi, 86, served as a military chaplain during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military regime. He faces charges related to the alleged murder of 20-year-old political activist José Guillermo Berón in 1976, as well as allegations of his participation in torture.
Reverberi, holding dual Argentinian and Italian nationality, left Argentina in 2011 amid trials against pro-junta figures. He returned to his hometown near Parma, Italy, where he lived undisturbed until recently, continuing to celebrate mass.
Despite the Italian top criminal court confirming his extradition in October, the Justice Minister, Carlo Nordio, vetoed it last Friday. He cited Reverberi’s advanced age and health condition.
Arturo Salerni, the lawyer representing Argentina in the case, criticised the move. He said, “The Italian justice minister’s move is in contrast to the judicial decisions against Reverberi.” He expressed hope that Reverberi could still be prosecuted in Italy.
Jorge Ithurburu, president of 24 Marzo, an NGO in Rome representing the relatives of victims of the Argentinian dictatorship, urged Reverberi to face trial in Italy, saying impunity is not provided for by the law. Ithurburu mentioned being in contact with the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights in San Rafael, Argentina, ready to file a complaint if Italian authorities do not extradite Reverberi.
Argentine militaria sought refuge in Italy
Following the 1976 coup, Argentina’s military systematically suppressed opposition, resulting in the murder of around 30,000 people, mostly unarmed civilians. The junta leader, Jorge Videla, was convicted in 1985 for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, just two years after Argentina returned to democracy.
Numerous individuals involved in the military regimes sought refuge in Italy, leveraging their Italian origins and dual nationality.
In a parallel case, an Argentinian army officer, Lt Col Carlos Luis Malatto, accused of premeditated killing under the Videla regime, will face trial in Rome on April 22.
Like Reverberi, Malatto fled Argentina in 2011 and had been living in Sicily. The case highlights the complexities and challenges of seeking justice for crimes committed during Argentina’s military dictatorship.