Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

Cavallo case

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 16 June 2003
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Cavallo case, 16 June 2003, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and its affiliated organizations in Argentina (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Comité de Accion Juridica, Liga Argentina de Derechos Humanos) and in Mexico (Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, LIMEDH) applauds the June 10, 2003 decision rendered by the Mexican Supreme Court authorizing the extradition of Argentinean national Ricardo Miguel Cavallo a.k.a "Serpico" to Spain for crimes of terrorism and genocide.

This decision confirmed the decision made January 12, 2001 by Mexican Judge Jesus Guadalupe Luna.

Cavallo was part of the "intelligence group" GT 33/2 of the ESMA, one of the most brutal clandestine detention centers of the last Argentinean dictatorship (1976-1983). Cavallo is accused of the disappearances of 248 persons and 128 kidnappings of whom 16 were pregnant women who gave birth at the ESMA.

The Spanish judge's request for extradition is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction which allows for trials to be held regardless of the victim's or defendant's nationality or the where the crime was committed. The Mexican government's decision is in compliance with its international obligation to either judge or extradite persons accused of grave crimes.

As of date, the crimes Cavallo is accused of have gone unpunished in Argentina given the amnesty laws "de punto final" and "de obediencia debida" which are currently being challenged as anti-constitutional before the Argentina's Supreme Court.

The decision to extradite Cavallo is historic for two main reasons. On the one hand, it confirms the jurisdiction of the Spanish tribunals to prosecute Cavallo for alleged genocide and terrorism. On the other hand, it is the first time that a person is being extradited on the principle of universal jurisdiction.

However, our organizations are dismayed by the Mexican Supreme Court's decision rejecting charges of torture on the grounds that, under Mexican law, the statute of limitations has expired.

By coming to this decision, the Mexican Supreme Court contradicts the 1984 International Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, both of which are ratified by Mexico.

Therefore, the Comité de Acción Jurídica (CAJ), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Liga Argentina de Derechos Humanos (LADH), Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH), LIMEDDH, and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) requests that the Mexican government executes the Supreme Court's decision by immediately extraditing Cavallo.

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