(Corrects type of investigation in third paragraph)
By Alexandra Ulmer
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters Life!) - The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group that is trying to find missing victims of Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship, should win the Nobel Peace Prize, a controversial Spanish judge said.
Judge Baltasar Garzon, who won fame for his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights abuses in 1999, told reporters he believes the group has a good chance of winning the coveted prize.
“These women deserve the prize for a battle that transcends Argentine borders,” said Garzon, who is awaiting trial on charges he exceeded his authority by ordering an investigation into killings during Spain’s Civil War from 1936-1939.
The women are dedicated to identifying their grandchildren who were stolen from abducted political prisoners and often adopted by families with military ties.
Up to 30,000 people died or disappeared during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” a bloody crackdown on leftists and other opponents. So far, the group has helped identify 101 children of disappeared prisoners.
Garzon spoke along with Chilean senator Isabel Allende, the daughter of former Chilean President Salvador Allende and the cousin of author Isabel Allende, They belong to the 17-member council created to promote the group candidacy for the prize.
“There is no better Nobel Peace Prize than finding a grandchild,” said Estela de Carlotto, the head of the group, during the council’s presentation. “We are democratically constructing a new Argentina.”
Under former President Nestor Kirchner, Argentine courts and Congress struck down a pardon for military personnel involved in crimes during the junta.
Kirchner’s wife, current President Cristina Fernandez. has pushed for the identification of the children of abducted prisoners has made human rights a cornerstone of her presidency.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo were nominated for the prize by Argentine Senator Daniel Filmus in 2008. The Nobel Committee approved the candidature this year.
The group faces competition from a record 237 people and organizations that have been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, including Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the International Space Station program.
The winner will be announced in mid-October in Oslo.
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Patricia Reaney