Death flights

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The death flights (Spanish: vuelos de la muerte) were a form of forced disappearance and murder routinely practiced during the Argentine "Dirty War", begun by Admiral Luis María Mendía. Victims of death flights were first drugged into a stupor, hustled aboard fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters, stripped naked and pushed into the Río de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean to drown. Extrajudicial killings have been conducted in a manner substantively similar to those of the Argentine death flights, during the 1957 Battle of Algiers, and other conflicts.

Death flights during the Dirty War in Argentina[edit]

According to the testimony of Adolfo Scilingo, convicted in Spain of crimes against humanity under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction in 2005, there were 180-200 death flights in the years 1977 and 1978; Scilingo confessed to participating in two such flights, with 13 and 17 people killed respectively.[1]

Victims were sometimes made to dance for joy in celebration of the freedom that they were told awaited them. In an earlier interview, in 1996, Scilingo said, "They were played lively music and made to dance for joy, because they were going to be transferred to the south. [...] After that, they were told they had to be vaccinated due to the transfer, and they were injected with Pentothal. And shortly after, they became really drowsy, and from there we loaded them onto trucks and headed off for the airfield."[2]

Scilingo says that the Argentine Navy is "still hiding what happened during the dirty war".[3] In May 2010, Spain extradited to Argentina pilot Julio Alberto Poch. Poch, born in 1952, had been arrested in Valencia, Spain, on September 23, 2009 and was wanted in Argentina for his alleged participation as a pilot on the death flights. In December 2010 an Argentine judge dismissed all charges against Poch for lack of evidence and ordered his release pending further investigation. In November 2011 the investigating magistrate indicted Poch for his role in the disappearance of 41 people, and ordered him held without bail.[citation needed]

Use in other conflicts[edit]


Death flights were used during the Algerian War by French paratroopers of the 10th Parachute Division under Jacques Massu during the Battle of Algiers. After it was discovered that the corpses sometimes resurfaced, the executioners began to attach concrete blocks to their victims' feet. These victims came to be known as "Bigeard's shrimps" ("crevettes Bigeard"), after one of the paratrooper commanders, Marcel Bigeard.[4] [5][6]

Malagasy Uprising[edit]

During the Malagasy Uprising of 1947, in Mananjary hundreds of Malagasy were killed, among them 18 women and a group of prisoners thrown from aircraft.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spain tries Argentine ex-officer". BBC News. January 20, 2005. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Macabre new details emerge about Argentina's 'dirty war'". CNN. 
  3. ^ "'Death flight' captain says Argentine navy is hiding horrors.". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). January 19, 2005. [dead link]
  4. ^ Film testimony by Paul Teitgen, Jacques Duquesne and Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc on the INA archive website.
  5. ^ Des guerres d’Indochine et d’Algérie aux dictatures d’Amérique latine, interview with Marie-Monique Robin by the Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League), January 10, 2007
  6. ^ Prise de tête Marcel Bigeard, un soldat propre ?, L'Humanité, June 24, 2000 (French)
  7. ^ Jean Fremigacci, "La vérité sur la grande révolte de Madagascar", L'Histoire, n° 318, March 2007