NEW YORK - December 11 - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) marks the passing of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet by offering condolences to his family, and acknowledging the domestic and international impact of efforts to hold him accountable for human right violations.
Pinochet's death should not close Chile's darkest chapter -- one that was marked by gross human rights violations and complete impunity for those responsible. Today, on Human Rights day, his passing should serve as a powerful reminder to governments throughout the world that delaying justice often means denying it to victims altogether.
Dozens of former military personnel, responsible for tens of thousands of cases of torture, ill-treatment, "disappearances," killings and forced exile, continue to live at large without any fear of being brought to justice. The message to these perpetrators must not be that they can simply "run the clock," or that time erases the truth of what was done to their victims.
Pinochet's arrest in London almost a decade ago was a catalyst in the struggle against impunity. In Chile, it rekindled the debate about relatives' right to truth and justice, set in motion various judicial initiatives, and led to the repeal of the 1978 Amnesty law. Globally, Pinochet's arrest, and the U.K. House of Lord's ruling that he did not enjoy impunity as head of state, became known as the Pinochet Precedent and has been referenced in other landmark court cases.
It is essential that Chile's government continue to build on the momentum first set in motion by this London arrest. It must push for judicial results and continue to dismantle the obstacles that have so far prevented the relatives from knowing what happened to their loved ones and seeing those responsible brought to justice.
- Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990, after ousting socialist President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
- Thousands of cases of human rights violations were reported during Pinochet's regime.
- According to the report produced by the Rettig commission (Chile's Truth and Reconciliation Commission) in 1991, 3196 people died as a consequence of political violence during Pinochet's regime. Of those, 1185 remain disappeared.
- The Estadio Nacional and Villa Grimaldi -- where current Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were held in 1975 -- are among the detention center were most detainees were taken. The latter is now a memorial center.
- Since 1998, Pinochet has been accused of dozens of human rights violations but hasnít so far faced trial due to legal barriers -- particularly the impunity he enjoyed as ex-President and Senator -- and poor health. His lawyers have, and continue to argue he is unfit to stand trial.
- Under Chilean law, General Pinochet needs to be stripped of his immunity from legal prosecution on a case-by-case basis before any charges can be filed.
- Pinochet is currently facing charges in Chilean courts in relation to one financial enquiry -- the Riggs case -- and five human rights cases: Villa Grimaldi, Operation Colombo, Operation Condor, Caravan of Death and the Prats case.