Pinochet's legacy

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of General Pinochet?  Dictator? Military junta? Chile?

Well for us at Amnesty, we would probably agree with most of that, but we would defnitely have to add one other element: the impact of his arrest.

Ten years ago today, General Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London on charges of crimes against humanity – the worst possible crimes known to mankind. And it would definitely be an understatement to say that during his military junta from 1973 until 1990, some of the worst human rights abuses were committed in Chile at this time. Thousands of people were subjected to torture, unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions and forcible transfers.  

And those events are haunting people even today.  You may have seen today’s news that five senior officials who were involved in a dreadful operation in 1973 known as the Caravan of Death were sentenced to imprisonment today.

Sadly it’s taken this long for justice to be delivered in the case of these men, and even though Pinochet was arrested, he was never brought to trial on grounds of medical concerns.

But this returns me to my initial point: The impact of his arrest. Basically it meant that for the first time a head of state is not immune to prosecution, and that universal jurisdiction – a technical legal term that means that a person can be arrested and prosecuted in any state irrespective of where the crime took place – can be applied and enforced.

Amnesty International was closely involved in securing his arrest so this date does particularly resonate with us, as UK Director Kate Allen describes in her comment on the Indie’s Open House.  Philippe Sands also offers a similar comment on CiF today. Have a read when you can

It also allowed the people of Chile to be hopeful that a window of opportunity had been opened for them and that they can now pursue justice.

The picture above is taken by photographer Paula Allen who’s spent many years developing connections and friendships with the mothers, wives and sisters of victims in Chile who 'disappeared' during the Pinochet military regime. This image 'Flowers in the Desert'  was the first of a series of photo exhibitions organised by Amnesty in connection our Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

Ten years on Pinochet’s arrest has been marked by the sentencing of officials involved in his dreadful operations. That’s definitely good news. Let’s hope that the people of Chile will see more perpetrators successfully brought to justice.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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