Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its Chilean member organisation, Corporación de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo, (CODEPU), and in France, the Ligue des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen (LDH) are very pleased that, as announced yesterday, 15 high-ranking officials of the Pinochet dictatorship period, allegedly responsible for the disappearance of four French and Franco-Chilean citizens during the dictatorship period will be judged in absentia in Paris between 19 and 23 May 2008.

FIDH, CODEPU and LDH will be the plaintiffs together with the families of the four French victims in a trial which should stand out as the first condemnation of the system of repression applied during the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 to 1990 in Chile.

Criminal accusations for disappearances (called aggravated arrest and sequestration in French law), acts of torture and barbary reflect the regime’s line of command and main events of the dictatorship, instigated by Augusto Pinochet: bombing the Moneda presidential palace, Operation Condor to eliminate opponents of the dictatorships in the region, crimes committed in the secretive torture centre Colonia Dignidad founded by Paul Schäfer, a former Nazi criminal.

The investigation showed that Georges Klein, cabinet adviser to President Salvador Allende was arrested and went missing the day after the military coup, on 11 September 1973, although he had been with President Allende when the Moneda Palace was attacked; Father Etienne Pesle disappeared on 19 September 1973; Alphonse Chanfreau, a leader of the left-wing movement MIR disappeared on 30 July 1974 after being detained in the Colonia Dignidad and Jean-Yves Claudet-Fernandez, also a member of MIR, disappeared on 1 November 1975 in Argentina, a victim of Operation Condor.

"These hearings will provide an opportunity to listen to historical testimony. Augusto Pinochet is dead, but this trial of the dictator, albeit posthumous, is the only trial of the whole system of repression that he established," wrote Claude Katz, Sophie Thonon, William Bourdon and Benjamin Serfati, lawyers for the victims and the plaintiffs.

The 15 suspects to be judged in Paris include General Manuel Contreras, former head of DINA (secret police of the Chilean military regime) and Paul Schaeffer. Proceedings were also brought against Augusto Pinochet in this affair and an international arrest warrant was issued for him. But on 10 December 2006, he died without ever having been judged, just a few weeks before Judge Sophie Clément issued an order for his indictment. Three other suspects also died before the trial could get started.

"The detention of Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998 helped revive the procedures initiated by the victims of the Chilean dictatorship both in Chile and abroad. The current trial, because of the nature of the crimes, (not eligible for statute of limitation), transcends borders and contributes to the fight against impunity worldwide. Hopefully the truth expressed as an outcome of this trial will be heard in Chile and will facilitate recognition of the realities of these crimes that are still far too little known" said Hiram Villagra and Federico Aguirre, CODEPU lawyers in Chile.

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