Pinochet's Case is Not Yet Satisfying to Chilean and Human Rights Activists
Although hampered by internal constraints and challenges, the nation of Chile stands poised to enter the 21st century as a major player in the world's international community. On the one hand, the sound economic policies that were first implemented by the Pinochet dictatorship resulted in unprecedented growth in 1991- 1997; these policies have also helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government. On the other hand, General Augusto Pinochet has been found guilty of the torture, disappearance, and murder of thousands of Chileans, including international citizens, but he has not yet been brought to justice. After Patricio Aylwin inaugurated a democratic presidency in 1990, he continues to bring excuses for Pinochet's actions or exercises control to avoid facing justice. Pinochet declared himself as Commander of Chief of the Army and afterwards, Senator for life in Chile. He enforced the so-called Organic Laws, which threatened any new incoming government that Pinochet's military would take action against them if they touched him or his men. Furthermore, while in England, Pinochet was arrested on a warrant from Spain for murder during his dictatorship. However, due to his age and alleged mental incapacity, he was released again in March 2000. Today, he remains in his mansion and is receiving treatment for insanity. The Chilean courts have overturned his amnesty in Chile, which could be an indication of changes yet to come. Regardless, it is hard to say whether Chilean and international human rights organizations will forgive what he has done, not to mention the Chilean people, especially those who suffered so much under his rule. The Pinochet case needs to be harshly reevaluated and put in perspective to set it as a model so that history never repeats itself. This paper will provide an examination of how and when General Augusto Pinochet is alleged to have engaged in these criminal activities, and what has been done to try to bring him to justice. A summary of the research will be provided in the conclusion.
Review and Discussion
Avoiding Responsibility. Pinochet avoided paying for his crimes, murder, disappearance, and torture, in his post-presidency.
Voters rejected Pinochet in 1988 and voted in Patricio Aylwin's Concertacion coalition, Christian Democrats, Socialists and some of the Communists, in 1990. Any hope of real change, of real democracy or of justice was disappointed. The new Constitution set the armed forces' role, reserved senate seats for Pinochet's nominees and prevented the party in power from making any real change.
Commander in Chief. Pinochet remained commander-in-chief of the army, with a lifetime senate seat after retirement. The elected government worked in the shadow of the army, and nothing changed while the amnesty for Pinochet and his army continued. The Supreme Court seemed to work against justice, applying the amnesty block prosecutions and to close cases. In August 1990, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the amnesty that Pinochet had put in place (Webber, 2000).
Threatening to Retaliate. The change in government did not help to see justice done. "General Pinochet had threatened dire consequences if any of his men were brought to trial, and the issue was sidelined by political elites for a smoother transition process" (Matear, 2004, p. 27). The army did not take threats to doing whatever it wanted lying down. Their reaction was quick and painful.
In May 1993, when a number of human rights cases were under way, heavily armed soldiers appeared around the Moneda presidential palace, provoking fears of an imminent coup. The military courts obediently closed fourteen cases and the Supreme Court upheld the amnesty law in seven.
As more soldiers began to face prosecution, organizations like the National Association of Soldiers of Silence sprang up, to hunt down and silence those tempted to speak out to save their conscience or their skin. It sent death threats to defence lawyers who tried to exculpate clients by pleading superior orders (Webber, 2001, p. 1).
Between 1990 and 1998 at least 35 journalists and authors were thrown in jail or threatened with it for publishing material offensive to the armed forces.
Senator for Life. Pinochet kept his permanent immunity from prosecution by having the position of Senator for life.
In January 1998, an appeal court judge admitted the first criminal complaint against Pinochet himself, a complaint charging him with genocide, kidnappings, conspiracy, illegal trials and torture, presented by thirty-nine human rights lawyers led by Fabiola Letelier, sister of Orlando.
Complainants included the AFDD, the Communist and Socialist parties and teachers', metalworkers', nurses' and journalists' unions.
But Pinochet was still protected by the lifetime immunity conferred by his senator status, and by the military justice system which, headed by his personal counsel, sees itself as the judicial arm of a counterinsurgency army (Webber, 2000, p. 43).
Arrested. In October 1998, Gen. Augusto Pinochet went to London from Chile for medical treatment. Within a few days, he was served with an arrest warrant by London's Metropolitan Police, from a preliminary extradition request from Spain. Pinochet was arrested for the murdering under his rule.
At 9 pm on Friday 16 October 1998, a London stipendiary magistrate, Nicholas Evans, issued a provisional warrant for the arrest and extradition to Spain of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, senator-for-life, excommander-in-chief of the army, ex-president of Chile, in response to an international warrant issued by Judge Baltasar Garzon of Madrid's Central Criminal Court No 5.
Later that night, police from the extradition squad arrested Pinochet at the London hospital where he was receiving treatment. A second warrant was served on him a few days later (Webber, 2000, p. 43).
Extradition is the traditional and the legal method for one nation-state to return a fugitive to another country to face prosecution or to serve his or her sentence (Blakesley, 2000). The echoes of the arrest and following legal process continue to be felt across the world. For the Chileans who demonstrated, organized, sang and cried with joy outside the House of Lords in November 1998, and again in March 1999, and for the people who celebrated on the streets of Santiago and elsewhere, it was the reward for a quarter of a century struggle for justice.
The lawyers against Pinochet were not prepared to argue against his right to immunity.
The High Court judges agreed that "because of deficiencies in the State Immunity Act, it was not possible to create an exception to immunity for official crimes against humanity" (Webber, 2000, p. 43).
They decided that UK law did not exclude crimes like genocide or torture from the scope of immunity and that since Pinochet's crimes were official, not personal crimes, he was entitled to immunity (Webber, 2000).
The extradition request on 3 November 1998 listed hundreds of Chilean victims of the terror of Pinochet starting from the date of his violent overthrow of Salvador Allende's government on 11 September 1973 to the day he stepped down in 1990. His victims included members and supporters of the government, communists, socialists, trade unionists, teachers, peasants, factory workers, miners, railway workers, building workers, poets, teenagers, and even young children.
The ways they were tortured, the horrible cruelty of their torturers, were spelled out clearly in the document. Pinochet and his people used electricity, animals, the sexual tortures, children's torture, and even forced one member of a family to torture another. (Webber, 2000).
Claiming Immunity. On 24 March 1999, the Lords upheld the decision in principle that Pinochet could not claim immunity for crimes against humanity. They also ruled that he could not be extradited for any offences occurring before December 1988. Since that only left a handful of charges, there was pressure to not go ahead. The Spanish judge found more evidence of crimes after 1988 and eventually, in October 1999, a London magistrate ruled that the charges were in order and that Spain's request for Pinochet's extradition was valid (Webber, 2000).
Sent Home. In March 2000, Home Secretary Jack Straw decided that the General was too sick to stand trial. Britain's direct interest in the case ended and it seems that justice would have to be content with only a statement of principle (Waltz, 2001). Pinochet was sent back to his native Chile. Shortly after he got home, he was forced to address warrants issued by Chilean judges for crimes, such as kidnapping, that were not covered under the amnesty law passed during his dictatorship. His lawyers continue to press for his release on the grounds of his ill health (Spanakos, 2001).
By July 2000, Pinochet's parliamentary immunity had been taken away by Chile's Supreme Court, and nearly 200 lawsuits were filed against him. Some of the charges have been limited and appeals are underway, but the general has been ruled fit to stand trial. He was placed under house arrest in January of 2001 (Waltz, 2001). His lawyers continued to press for his release on the grounds of his ill health (Spanakos, 2001). In July 2002, Chile's…
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