Rear-Admiral Jorge Anaya: Argentine naval commander

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The Independent Online

Jorge Isaac Anaya, naval officer: born Bahía Blanca, Argentina 27 September 1926; Head of Naval Personnel 1977-80, Commander of the Navy 1981-82; married (four children); died Buenos Aires 9 January 2008

Jorge Anaya had a lower public profile than General Leopoldo Galtieri, the army officer who headed the military junta that took Argentina into a disastrous war with Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1982. But an official inquiry into the conflict – the Rattenbach report – found that Anaya as commander of the Argentine navy had been the most determined of the three service chiefs to impose a military solution to the "Malvinas" question, as well as the least effective commander during the war.

For those reasons, he received the heaviest prison sentence when the junta members faced a court martial in 1986. He was given 14 years, against only 12 for Galtieri and just eight for the air force commander, Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo. But a civilian appeals court later ruled that all three should serve 12 years, as they bore equal responsibility for the fiasco.

Anaya was granted an amnesty by President Carlos Menem in 1989, but his troubles were far from over. The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzó* applied unsuccessfully for his extradition in 1999, on charges of genocide, terrorism and torture, and in 2000 Argentina's Supreme Court annulled the amnesty laws, declaring them to be unconstitutional. Investigators began to look into thousands of cases of human rights abuses during the military dictatorships of 1976-82, when at least 13,000 people, and perhaps as many as 30,000, were killed or "disappeared" during what was universally known as the "Dirty War", against left-wing guerrillas and anybody suspected of supporting them.

As a result of these inquiries, Anaya was accused of involvement in 266 kidnappings of civilians by naval intelligence snatch squads, and their torture at the navy's secret interrogation centre in Buenos Aires, between December 1977 and February 1980. During that time he was head of the navy's personnel department, with an office in the same building. He was, however, spared from having to face his accusers by ill-health: in November 2006 he suffered a heart attack while waiting to be interrogated by an examining magistrate, and was rushed to the naval hospital. He was kept under house arrest after being discharged, but was never deemed fit enough to face trial.

Colin Harding