PINOCHET SHALL NOT ESCAPE FROM JUSTICE, NOR BE FORGOTEN

13/12/2006
Press release
en es

FIDH and its affiliated league in Chile CODEPU regret the death of the ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. We wish he had lived long enough to face his responsibility for crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, we stress that the demonstrations by victims of his oppressive regime won battles that shall remain landmarks in the History of the people.

He thought that he could live in impunity following the 1978 decree of auto amnesty and Decree 2191 which entered into force on 21 August 1990 and by appointing himself senator for life in order to benefit from parliamentary immunity. He trusted that powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom would support his dictatorship and thus protect him from any claim to bring him before justice in other jurisdictions, both because he had been head of State and because of his bad health.

Nevertheless, the Santiago Court of Appeal received the first claim against him for the forced disappearance of Jorge Muñoz Poutays on 20th January 1998.

On 16th October 1998, he was arrested in London by an international arrest warrant issued by the Spanish judge Baltazar Garzón which could be enforced under universal jurisdiction. On 25 November 1998, the High Court’s decision, which gave Pinochet full immunity, was overruled by the House of Lords. This judgement was reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal of the House of Lords on 24 March 1999. These judgements are historic and constituted a new step forward in the evolution of international criminal law and the exercise of universal jurisdiction.

In March 1999, FIDH carried out a fact-finding mission in Chile ("L’eventuel retour de Pinochet au Chile: en toute impunité?"), during which they recommended the abolition of the auto amnesty decrees, the repealing of any legislation made under military jurisdiction or forum and of the precomposition of the senate. The FIDH also asked that the amnesty awarded to Pinochet by virtue of his status as Senator for life be lifted.

In January 2000, the English head of the Home Office Jack Straw, after seeing the results of medical and neuropsysiology tests, decided that Pinochet was too ill to attend trial. Nevertheless, upon reaching Chilean soil on 2nd March 2000, he stepped out of his wheelchair and walked off the runway in a healthy stride.

On 7th August 2000, the Chilean Supreme Court lifted Pinochet’s parliamentary immunity with regards to the events of the Caravan of Death.

On 29 January 2001, Judge Juan Guzman held indicted Pinochet for his responsibility as indirect perpetrator of crimes of kidnapping and murdering of 57 people and as a direct perpetrator of 18 more murders.

On 27 August 2004, the Supreme Court confirmed the Santiago Court of Appeal’s judgement, which also lifted his immunity, this time with regards to the forced disappearances during the « Plan Cóndor ».

On 26 September 2006, the Interamerican Court, in the case of Almonacid Arellano confirmed the incompatibility between the amnesty decree and the American Convention of Human Rights and therefore decided that the amnesty had no legal effect.

On 18th October 2006, Judge Alejandro Solis interrogated Pinochet, who was then under house arrest for his role in the torture of 23 survivors and the disappearance of 36 others in the Villa Grimaldi torture centre.

On 10 December 2006, Human Rights Declaration Day, Pinochet died in Santiago de Chile. Even though no court condemned him, he was morally condemned by people from around the world. He died in a room of the Military Hospital, haunted by his crimes.

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