Gen. Roberto Viola, commander in chief of the Argentine army and a member of the ruling military junta, has told a group of New York City Bar Association lawyers that more than 3,000 political prisoners being held without charges here will be tried, released or allowed to leave the country in the near future.
Orville Schell Jr., chairman of the New York group, which has been investigating the status of lawyers and the judiciary in Argentina, said at a press conference today that Viola's statement came during a meeting earlier in the week.
Schell also said that Justice Minister Alberto Rodriguez Varela accepted a bar association list of 99 Argentine lawyers detained without charges and 92 more who have disappeared since the military here began its "dirty war" against terrorism three years ago.
Rodriguez Varela promised "he would look into the list, as best he is able, and inform us of its accuracy," Schell said.
The bar association group said the purpose of its trip was to determine whether lawyers here have been intimidated or otherwise prohibited from carrying out their duties. In addition, the group sought to determine whether the Argentine judiciary can act independently of the executive branch.
Schell told reporters that "we feel we have learned a great deal about the difficult history of Argentina" with regard to terrorism.
"Our clear impression is that the problems we presented . . . are well recognized by people within the government,"he said.
Schell acknowledged, however, that no government offical was willing to admit that military antiterrorist squads had any part in-or responsibility for-the more than 4,000 persons whom human rights and diplomatic observers here say have disappeared since the military came to power.
In recent months, there have been some signs that the country's judges are beginning to reassert themselves after largely refusing to deal with the thousands of habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of missing persons since 1976.
Yet there have also been reports of more disappearances during March after none in February.
In addition to meeting with government officials, the New Yorkers also talked with human rights groups, diplomats and Argentine bar assocition officials during their week-long stay.