LONDON - December 15 - Amnesty International (AI) today published the names of 20 high-ranking Chilean officers whose trials have languished in the court system for several years. The organization called on Chilean authorities to ensure that the recent death of Augusto Pinochet is not used as an excuse to de-emphasize the importance of legal proceedings against others suspected of thousands of cases of torture, "disappearances" and killings committed under his rule.
"Pinochet may have been the mastermind, but there is always a chain of command that is involved when so many thousands of horrifying abuses occur," said Larry Cox, executive director for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "Chilean authorities must not drag their feet simply because the ringleader is gone. Many implicated in this human rights nightmare are still on the loose, and it is time for justice to be served."
Amnesty International demands that all obstacles to justice -- particularly the Amnesty Law of 1978 (Decree No. 2.191), which was enacted during the government of Augusto Pinochet -- be declared null and void.
"These crimes cannot go unpunished nor be protected by the application of the Amnesty law, which has been used by the courts too widely and too often," said Virginia Shoppee, AI's Chile researcher.
Among the officers currently in cases before the courts are:
* General (retired) Sergio Arellano Stark -- charged with 29 counts of homicide and 43 counts of “disappearance” after leading the military operation "Caravan of Death" in 1973.
* General (retired) César Raúl Benavides Escobar, General (retired) Juan Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, Brigadier (retired) Miguel Krasnoff Martchenko, Teniente Coronel (retired) Ricardo Víctor Lawrence Mires, Coronel (retired) Carlos José López Tapia, Coronel (retired) Gregorio Mardones Díaz and Mayor (retired) Luis Felipe Polanco Gallardo -- charged with homicide, kidnapping, cover up and/or complicity for their involvement in the "Conferencia Street" military operation in 1976.
* General (retired) Juan Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, Coronel (retired) Pedro Octavio Espinoza Bravo and Brigadier (retired) Christoph Georg Paul Willeke Floel -- charged with kidnapping in the context of the "Condor Operation" between the 1970s and 1980s.
* General (retired) Juan Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, Coronel (retired) Pedro Octavio Espinoza Bravo, General (retired) Raúl Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann, Brigadier (retired) Miguel Krasnoff Martchenko, Teniente Coronel (retired) Ricardo Víctor Lawrence Mires, Coronel (retired) Marcelo Luis Moren Brito, Coronel (retired) Fernando Eduardo Lauriani Maturana, Suboficial Mayor (retired) Basclay Humberto Zapata Reyes and Brigadier General (retired) César Manriquez Bravo -- accused of the kidnapping and "disappearance" of 119 opposition members in the context of the "Operación Colombo."