The Pinochet Case- Issues and Ideas from Human Rights Watch Articles
- Pinochet 17 year dictatorship.
Systematic use of kidnapping, torture, murder. Disappeared 2,000 people. Implemented
secret police 'DINA' to commit atrocities, had prison camps- basically concentration
camps- all over Chile.
- In 1978 Pinochet passed a
self-amnesty for the Chilean military protecting military officials from prosecution for
atrocities committed between 1973-1978- the most violent years of the dictatorship
- The perpetrators of crime have gone
unpunished and there has been little national reconciliation in Chile, other than the 1995
Retting Commission, a truth commission which revealed a limited amount of the atrocities
committed during the dictatorship.
- Pinochet ruled as dictator for 17
years in Chile, and then before resigning appointed himself to the Supreme Court, where he
enjoys diplomatic immunity, (know as desafuero, and common for judges and government
officials) in many Latin American countries.
- However, under international law
several countries are now trying to extradite Pinochet for crimes against humanity-
including systematic executions and disappearances which are subject to universal
- In 1998 Pinochet was detained in
England for his crimes to be indited by Spain
obviously his diplomatic immunity is
not covered under international law. Spain, France, and Switzerland are now seeking to
extradite Pinochet. Under international law it is increasingly difficult for leaders to
get away with crimes.
- The 1980 United Nations Convention
Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is
especially important in this case, since Chile, England, France, and Switzerland were all
part of the convention. This convention binds England to either try Pinochet in England or
allow him to be indited to Spain. The Convention was established precisely to deny
torturers a safe-haven.
- Chile signed the above treaty in
1988, and is therefore held responsible for crimes committed after 1988, which includes 28
cases of torture and execution for the case of Spain. However, the prosecutor will argue
that each act of torture must be considered within the context of a continuing conspiracy
to torture, using torture as a weapon of intimidation and political persecution, relied on
within an institutional framework as evidenced by the creation of the secret police,
'DINA' and Operation Condor- network of terror between four countries of the southern Cone
(including the dictatorships of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay).
- Also, under international law
'disappearances' are considered a continuing crime until the whereabouts of the missing
are ascertained. Furthermore, the state of the disappeared is considered a form of torture
for the their loved ones and relatives. In Chile there are officially 957 individuals who
are still considered disappeared.
- In June of 1999, international
pressure convinced the United States to declassify thousands of pages of US documents on
Chile that gave evidence of Pinochet's guilt.
- England is obliged to try Pinochet or
extradite him to Spain, however there is a clause in English law that claims that those
facing trial must be fit to participate. So Pinochet has claimed that he is too ill to
stand trial. However, there was a precedent set when several World War II
criminals--Barbie, Touvier, and Papon--were tried and sentenced even though they were ill.
- In March 2000 Pinochet was returned
to Chile on medical grounds, and was to be examined by the Chilean military hospital-
notorious as a safe haven for military leaders. Human Rights watch and other organizations
are demanding that Pinochet have an independent medical examination.
- In Chile, after Pinochet was detained
in England, judges began to exercise more independence by initiating the process of trying
Chilean War criminals who had never been punished. Before Pinochet had left Chile there
was little progress toward national reconciliation. However, we can already see this
democratic progress thwarted as Pinochet is back in Chile and there is a proposed
constitutional reform th February, 2000, that would give permanent immunity to former
heads of state- a huge threat to the democratic process as it would mean blanket immunity
for all past and future dictators.
- Chilean court process is
different courts and legal system
Pinochet seeking immunity in
Chile, but Chilean supreme court rejected Pinochet's parliamentary immunity in August
2000. However, afterward, the Santiago appellate court dismissed charges against Pinochet
due to procedural errors, in which there was a requirement that the defendant be allowed
to make a preliminary statement before being charged, which Pinochet never did.
- Also due to the procedures against
Pinochet there was a meeting of Lagos whereone half of the council is from the army is an
ominous sign, as it shows that Pinochet's indictment has become an issue of National
- However, even if never punished this
whole process is a huge step forward for international Human Rights, sending a message to
the world that this is the end of immunity for leaders who commit crimes against humanity.
The Pinochet case has
set a new precedent. We can see the effects of this precedent in the Habre case of
Senegal, where the former head of state is now being tried for committing Human Rights