Galtieri faces life of an exile in his own land

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Leopoldo Galtieri, the Argentine military leader who invaded the Falkland Islands, is unlikely to serve time for his part in the "dirty war" of the 1970s. But he appears condemned to internal exile in Argentina for the rest of his years.

An international warrant for his arrest, for "creating a state of terror and genocide," was welcomed by most Argentines as at least a symbolic victory for human rights and for the relatives of tens of thousands of people "disappeared" by the military from 1976 to 1983. Although he has been granted amnesty in Argentina, the warrant means he could be arrested in any other country.

A Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, ordered Gen Galtieri's arrest via Interpol over the disappearance of several hundred Spaniards in Argentina during the "dirty war." Specifically, Judge Garzon held him responsible for the deaths of Victor Labrador and his two sons in 1976.

Gen Galtieri, 71, was army commander in Santa Fe province at the time. He led the military junta 1980-82; his invasion of the Falklands led to his downfall. With other military chiefs he was amnestied by President Carlos Menem in 1989 under the "Full-Stop Law", which absolved them of human-rights violations.

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against the generals, said the warrant was "a victory against impunity."

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who have fought for 20 years for news of their "disappeared" loved ones, also welcomed the news. "We think it's fantastic that the world is starting to prosecute these killers," said their leader, Hebe de Bonafini.

She said that her group planned to file charges in Italy soon against Pio Laghi, who was papal nuncio in Argentina in the 1970s.

Gen Galtieri joins the former navy captain Alfredo Astiz on the list of Argentines wanted abroad.

Astiz, known as "the Blond Angel", is wanted in France and Sweden in connection with the murder of citizens from those countries.

He has been sentenced in France, in absentia, to life imprisonment.