Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office and the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office this morning searched the living quarters of a 75-year-old former official of the Argentine military on charges of murder committed during the last dictatorship.
Luis Kyburg is said to have played a key role in the “death flights”, in which those kidnapped by the dictatorship were thrown from aircraft, alive, into the Río de la Plata. He is suspected of having commanded a unit of so-called “tactical divers” in the Mar del Plata Naval Base, where a clandestine detention center functioned during the dictatorship, killing over 150 people. Clandestine centres were used to keep the kidnapped in captivity, torture them and, in many cases, kill or disappear them.
The agency did not name Kyburg in its official release, but his age, background and location match with the content of the official statement. He was located in the Berlin neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg thanks to the work of human rights investigators in both Argentina and Germany.
After being summoned to testify in the “Naval Base 3” and “Naval Base 4” trials, Kyburg fled to Germany, where he has citizenship, in 2013. The victims’ families have been demanding he be extradited to Argentina to stand trial for crimes against humanity, like former colleagues. He is the only torturer from the Naval Base center who remains unpunished.
“This is a huge landmark,” Horacio Pietragalla, Argentina’s Secretary of Human Rights, told The Herald. “It shows progress in investigating and trying fugitives in crimes against humanity cases who are hiding from justice using other citizenships,” he said.
After being huntedby Interpol, authorities learned that he was in Berlin following an anonymous tip-off in 2014. Argentine justice requested his extradition in 2015, but Germany does not extradite its citizens.
“Luis K’s German citizenship must not shield him from prosecution,” said Wolfgang Kaleck, human rights lawyer and secretary general of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, in a statement in 2020. “Germany must fulfill its responsibility and bring him to justice here.”
Although there have been attempts to try Kyburg in Germany, and a local prosecutor has started a preliminary investigation, it has not yet been confirmed that he will stand trial. Human rights movements have organized protests against him, as they did in Argentina when the dictatorship torturers were free.
However, Pietragalla is optimistic about this morning’s events and hopes it will advance the case against Kyburg and the remaining fugitives in other countries. “We hope that today’s raid is a signal of an upcoming trial, where we will be able to prosecute and condemn yet another perpetrator of genocide.”