by Emanuele Giordana
The decree for the extradition of an Argentine priest accused of murder and torture is on the table of the Minister of Justice in Rome. A long legal battle that lasted 12 years seems to have come to an end, at least as far as Italy is concerned, where the former chaplain Franco Reverberi Boschi had taken refuge to escape justice in his own Country. Now Carlo Nordio has one month to sign the decree that will lead to the priest’s arrest and extradition to Argentina. “This is a judicial victory that says Italy is not a viable refuge for those who commit crimes against humanity,” says lawyer Arturo Salerni, who defends the Argentine embassy in Italy. “All Boschi has to do is cross the street to go from the presbytery where he lives to the police headquarters,” jokes Jorge Ithurburu, a Basque-Argentine who has lived in Italy for years and who, through the non-profit organisation ‘24 Marzo’ (24 March), has dedicated his life to pulling the murderers of the guerrilla regime out of their Italian hideouts, or to ensuring that justice is done for the many Italo-Argentines killed and disappeared during the dictatorship (1974-1983).
The case began in 2010 when the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Mendoza requested an investigation into Reverberi. This was granted the following year, but the priest had already been in Italy for months, in Sorbolo, in the province of Parma, where he was born in 1937 and where he carries out his religious activities in the parish of Saints Faustino and Giovita. The priest refused to return to Argentina for questioning, citing health problems, but in 2012 the Argentine court requested his extradition, which officially arrived in Rome in 2013. The Italian Court, however, refused because, as Salerni explains, it considered the crime to be time-barred. In 2017, Italy introduced the crime of torture into its legal system, allowing the priest to be prosecuted and extradited.
The Mendoza Public Prosecutor’s Office is back on the offensive, and just recently the Secretary for Human Rights, Horacio Pietragalla Corti, stopped off in Rome to discuss the pending extradition requests, according to an article by Luciana Bertoia in Pagina12, a Buenos Aires daily. Bertoia also sums up the case: “During the dictatorship, Reverberi Boschi was the assistant chaplain of the 7th scout squadron in San Rafael, Mendoza. Documents show that he took up this post in September 1980, but in a note, Reverberi Boschi admitted that he had already collaborated with the military. Testimonies indicate that he worked in the Casa Departmental – a clandestine centre that operated in the Provincial Courts – and in the police infantry. One survivor said that the priest suggested that he collaborate with his captors for ‘spiritual relief’. Others recall that he would attend the punishments dressed in a black suit and shoes, with a Bible under his arm.” Lawyer Salerni explain: “The priest is accused of several cases of torture and the death of a young Peronist: Gullermo Peron.” Reverberi Boschi will have to answer to the Argentine judges.
After the signature of the Minister of Justice, the lawyer concludes, the priest will have to be taken into custody by the Italian authorities, who will have to ensure his transfer to Argentina, checking his state of health, “which in any case has been recognised as not being an obstacle to his transfer.” The priest had in fact appealed to the Court of Cassation on the grounds of his health after the long judicial process had finally confirmed that he could be extradited. On 12 October, however, the judges of last instance rejected the appeal and asked the Minister of Justice to sign the decree that would send Reverberi Boschi to Argentina.
In the cover photo, signs on the Argentine Desaparecidos