Héctor Antonio Febres was born in 1941. Although not a sailor by trade, he was posted at the Naval Prefecture and became a liaison officer between the Prefecture and the repressor group led by the torturer Jorge Acosta (‘the Tiger’). This group was a direct dependent of the dictator Emilio Massera. In 1984 Febres was deployed by the Prefecture to the ESMA Naval Mechanics School located in a residential area in the North of Buenos Aires. This was a principal centre for torture and illegal repressive activity, and acted as a headquarters.
Almost 5,000 people went through ESMA and very few survived. After having being tortured, prisoners were put to sleep by injection and then thrown alive from planes into the sea, a practice that came to be known as the ‘flights of death’.
Febres joined ESMA’s ‘Action group 3.3.’ and became one of the cruellest torturers amongst hundreds of the centre’s accused agents, some being identified only by family name. Febres was named ‘Jungle’ (Selva), so-called for his extreme violence towards prisoners, as he was ‘as wild as all the animals of the jungle combined’. Other nicknames include ‘Big Daniel’ and ‘Orlando’.
He was also ‘responsible for’ pregnant prisoners detained by ESMA, who he tortured and raped. He ‘divided up’ the children born in ESMA, and killed their mothers after birth.
He remained posted at ESMA from March 1977 to December 1981.
Febres stands accused in numerous cases :
1. For the arrest and torture of 220 people between 1977 and 1978, some of whom disappeared, some of whom survived
2. The ‘Church of Santa Cruz’ case: where many heads of the Association of the Mothers of the Plaza, seven family members of missing persons and two French nuns were detained by soldiers. All of these individuals disappeared. On 29 August 2005 however, seven of the bodies were found, including that of one of the French nuns. They were discovered 400km away from Buenos Aires in the small town of General Lavallea, in a mass grave in the town’s cemetery, and were identified by their DNA.
3. The assassination of Rodolfo Walsh, journalist and member of the Montoneros.
4. A case filed as ‘the systematic dividing of child prisoners’. This involved the abduction, the detention, and the isolating of minors, and the aggravating factor of identity substitution in at least 15 cases. Febres is accused of handing babies born in ESMA over to soldiers for illegal adoption, after having executed their mothers.
Leading on from complaints filed by ESMA survivors or parents of missing persons, at the end of 1985 the Argentinean legal system began procedures against approximately ten soldiers for crimes against humanity. The soldiers were consequently arrested.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.