Augusto Pinochet and Human Rights Term Paper

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In that book, which Munoz claims was just a "long interview with a fictitious journalist," Pinochet portrays himself as a life-long "anti-Communist," and he recounts an experience he had as an army officer in Pisagua, a prison where communists were incarcerated. "The more I knew those prisoners and listened to their thoughts, while, at the same time, I studied Marx and Engels, the more I became convinced that we were mistaken about the Communist Party," Pinochet wrote. "It was not just another party… it was a system that turns things on their heads, dismissing any loyalty…" he continued (Munoz, 2008, p. 28). As though justifying the cruelty he perpetrated on thousands of civilians -- in the name of him keeping a grip on his dictatorship -- he said he was "…troubled that these pernicious and contaminating ideas could continue and spread throughout Chile" (Pinochet quoted by Munoz, p. 28).

Human Rights Violations in Chile Under Pinochet

Nigel writes that in Pinochet's first five years as dictator of Chile, there was "…widespread and systematic murder, torture and enforced disappearance" (16). Even though the murders and disappearances were fewer after those first five horrific years under Pinochet, "…torture remained common," Nigel continues (16). When a civilian government took over Chile in 1991, the new president established the "National Commission of Truth and Reconciliation" which documented the following: a) 1,068 "confirmed cases of extra-legal or summary execution"; b) 957 cases that were confirmed of "enforced disappearance"; and c) other cases (641) for which a "conviction" could not be confirmed and another 449 in which not enough information was available (Nigel, 16-17). Interestingly, Pinochet was shielded from prosecution after he was out of office, because initially he was an army commander (until March 10, 1988) and couldn't be held accountable for his actions as dictator; and secondarily, he was sworn in as "Senator-for-Life" the next day, March 11, 1988. This amnesty he was afforded also was given to his colleagues and subordinates, in most cases (Nigel, 17).

Pinochet's Arrest in London

Although he was protected from prosecution for his crimes in Chile, he could not avoid being ensnared by two international arrest warrants, one issued by a judge in Spain and the other by highly placed judge in London (Nigel). Pinochet was charged with conspiracy to murder and to torture, and actual torture and hostage taking. Later an expanded list of crimes was added to the initial charges, including "genocide and murder, as well as conspiracy to commit murder" (Nigel, 18).

Could Pinochet actually be extradited from London? That was a question that hovered over the London legal establishment. The answer in time was, yes he could be extradited and returned to Chile, but he never was prosecuted. Kristin Sorensen writes that first the Supreme Court ruled that Pinochet was not fit to stand trail because of his mental and physical health problems. Later, the Santiago Appeals Court took Pinochet's immunity away from him but he died in 2006, was never convicted of his many crimes, and "cases against him have been dropped" (Sorenson, 2009, p. 4).

However, by June, 2007, the courts had prosecuted one of Pinochet's top generals, Raul Ituriaga Neuman, and he was to report to prison to serve a five-year sentence. He had been convicted of ordering the kidnapping in 1974 of Luis San Martin Vergara, a member of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR). But Neuman never showed up and so apparently very few of Pinochet's bloodletting military brass ever were held accountable for the atrocities and other crimes (Sorenson, p. 3)

Neuman did leave a video statement: "I openly rebel against this arbitrary, biased, unconstitutional and illegal sentence… I was subjected to undue prosecution," he claimed (Sorenson, 4). He argued that like about 500 other members of the military who he had also been prosecuted unfairly. His prosecution took place he said "…under the complacent gaze of the government and institutions that do not defend our rights, which we are justly claiming" (Sorenson, 4). The spokesman for retired officers (who served with Pinochet) is Hernan Bayas, who issued a statement saying "Sooner or later, there will be a storm," which was not a very veiled reference to "military consequences" that Bayas claimed would be brought to bear if "human rights cases were not dropped" (Sorenson, 4).

Sorenson notes that at the time this book was published (2009) the present commander of the Chilean army, General Oscar Izurieta, has put forward gestures of cooperation with some of the military personnel that were implicated in some of the "…most notorious cases of human rights violations," including assassinations of elected officials and the poisoning of the former President of Chile, president Eduardo Frei Montalva in a Santiago hospital in 1982 (Sorenson, 4). It is almost humorous to reflect on Izurieta's demand that those army personnel accused of some of the most heinous crimes against innocent civilians should be considered "innocent until proven guilty," Sorenson continues. Those officers should be given "a complete and fair trial in the courts," Izurieta demanded.

Sorenson writes that giving them fair trials sounds "…perfectly reasonable despite the fact that the military and secret police never granted the same protections to those whom they rounded up during the dictatorship" (4).

Human Rights Violations in Libya and Eastern Europe

The crimes that Pinochet committed in Chile are not unique in terms of human rights violations in the world. There are human rights violations occurring at this time in a number of countries, including Libya, which recently engaged in revolution to overthrow the brutal dictator Colonel al-Gaddafi. The Amnesty International group recently published a white paper on the abuses to human rights that are occurring in Libya at this time.

"The militiamen would not listen. They beat me with belts on my back, my hands, legs. They threatened to kill me." This is the testimony of a 23-year-old man who was stopped at a checkpoint in February, 2012, and accused of being loyal to Gaddafi. Two sisters, aged 27 and 32, were stopped at a checkpoint by militia in February, 2012, and one was "…suspended from a door for hours, had boiling water poured over her head, and was beaten and stabbed" (Amnesty International). These are just a few of the "mounting toll of victims on an increasingly lawless Libya," where literally hundreds of militias have formed subsequent to the fall of Gaddafi.

The chaos, torture, and terror caused by these militias -- most of which have not a clue about international laws regarding human rights -- is "…threatening the very future of Libya and casting a shadow" over the recent elections held in Libya.

Meanwhile, Alex J. Bellamy writes about human rights violations in Eastern Europe in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Human Rights. Bellamy explains that "Before and during NATO's Operation Allied Force," local Serbian militia forces have been charged with "…horrendous crimes against the Kosovar Albanian population" (Bellamy, 2000, p. 105). Sadly, the value of human life was greatly reduced due to the brutal slaughter of Albanians led by Serb general, Slobodan Milosevic; Milosevic and his troops slaughtered an estimated 50,000 Kosovar Albanians in brutal fashion. Some of the killing he did is very much like what Pinochet did in Chile -- especially in the first five years of Pinochet's dictatorship.

In conclusion, the legacy of Pinochet has been well documented and it is a sad, cruel, and depression legacy he has left. It is also an incomplete legacy since the prosecutors were never able to bring justice to all the families that lost members to his brutality, and to all the families whose loved ones simply disappeared and were never heard from. There are human rights violations occurring at this very moment, and it is up to journalists to document those abuses and it is up to democratic governments to put pressure on those states that are tolerating human rights abuses or even committing human rights abuses.

Works Cited

Amnesty International. "Libya: Rule of Law or Rule of Militias?" Retrieved July 19, 2012,


Bellamy, Alex J. "Human Wrongs in Kosovo: 1974-99." The International Journal of Human

Rights. 4.3/4 (2000): 105-122.

De Zarate, Veronica Valdivia Ortiz. "Terrorism and Political Violence during the Pinochet

Years: Chile, 1973-1989." Radical History Review. Issue 85 (2003): 182-190.…[continue]

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