“The company has been exposed and could not defend itself; they allowed the army to torture us inside the factory.”

On Tuesday, two former Ford Motor Company executives were sentenced in an Argentine courtroom for assisting the former dictatorship’s agents in gathering and torturing 24 union workers.

According to human rights groups, approximately 30,000 people were killed or disappeared during the ruthless military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. The sentencing on Tuesday was part of a trial that began last year to focus on executive support for the brutal dictatorship.

In 1976, the Ford factory in Argentina employed about 5,000 people to produce the Falcon, a car that was at the time a “symbol of state terror.” Police and military often used these cars to move renegades between secret detention centers.

According to the court, Ford security manager Hector Francisco Sibilla and manufacturing director Pedro Muller gave their workers’ information to military agents, allowing them to kidnap, torture and imprison them.

Muller and Sibilla were sentenced to 10 and 12 years, respectively. A former chief in the Argentine army, Santiago Omar Riveros was sentenced to 15 years.

All three men plead innocent and still have time to appeal.

Outside the courtroom, Pedro Troiani, one of the victims, told The Associated Press: “Memory, truth and justice – that’s what we always demanded. The company has been exposed and could not defend itself; they allowed the army to torture us inside the factory.”

“Ford Argentina is not a party to the case, but is aware of the verdict on the alleged participation of Ford Argentina employees in facts related to human rights issues in the ’70s,” Ford said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Ford Argentina has always kept a collaborative and open attitude with authorities, providing all the available information requested to clarify this situation.”

The Center for Legal and Social Studies, an Argentine human rights group, stated, “Seven percent of civilians accused of crimes against humanity are businesspeople. The dictatorship was the opportunity that some company executives saw to resolve labor conflicts in a repressive way and to boost their profits. They put material resources at the military’s disposition, such as cars and facilities, and passed along lists of targeted people, in this way forming yet another link in the structure of state terrorism.”

 

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