The term "Dirty War" was originated by the military junta, which claimed that a war, albeit with "different" methods (including the large-scale application of torture and rape), was necessary to maintain social order and eradicate political subversives.
This explanation has been questioned in court and by human rights NGOs, as it suggests that a "civil war" was going on, and implies justification for the killings. During the 1985 Trial of the Juntas, public prosecutor Julio Strassera suggested that the term "Dirty War" was a "euphemism to try to conceal gang activities" as though they were legitimate military activities.
Although the junta said its objective was to eradicate guerrilla activity because of its threat to the state; it conducted wide-scale repression of the general population; it worked against all political opposition, and those it considered on the left: trade unionists (half of the victims), students, intellectuals including journalists and writers, rights activists, and other civilians, and their families. Many others went into exile to survive, and many remain in exile today (despite the return of democracy in 1983).
Analysts say that crimes committed during this time may not be covered under the laws of war (jus in bello), which shields soldiery of inferior rank from prosecution for acts committed under military or state orders. Paul H. Lewis, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, who has written Guerrillas and Generals: The Dirty War in Argentina, is among those who claim otherwise.
Terence Roehrig in his The Prosecution of Former Military Leaders in Newly Democratic Nations: The Cases of Argentina, Greece, and South Korea (McFarland & Company, 2001) estimates that of the disappeared, "at least 10,000 were involved in various ways with the guerrillas". Justice Minister Ricardo Gil Lavedra, who formed part of the 1985 tribunal for the Trial of the Juntas, later went on record saying, "I sincerely believe that the majority of the victims of the illegal repression were guerrilla militants."
and the Marxist-Leninist People's Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo or ERP) admitted the deaths of some 5,000 of their own armed fighters. Mario Firmenich, the commander of the Montoneros, in a radio interview in late 2001 from Spain said that, "In a country that experienced a civil war, everybody has blood on their hands."
The government passed legislation to provide compensation to people who lost loved ones in the war under the dictatorship. To date, some 11,000 Argentines have applied for and received up to US $200,000 each as monetary compensation for their losses.
The program of extermination of dissidents was termed "genocide" by a court of law, for the first time in the official treatment of illegal crimes of the dictatorship, during the 2006 trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, a former senior official of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police.(wikipedia.org)