Chile: Pinochet - His death must not be the end of the story
Reacting to the news of the death of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Pinochet’s death must not be the end of the story. Amnesty International urges the Chilean authorities to declare void the amnesty law, and to permit thorough investigations and prosecutions of all those others who were involved in the thousands of cases of ‘disappearances’, torture and extra-judicial executions during his rule.
“Families and survivors need to know what happened, need justice, and need their day in court.
“Pinochet’s death should also be a wake-up call to the Chilean authorities and to governments everywhere, reminding them of the importance of speedy justice for human rights crimes, something Pinochet himself has now escaped.”
Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990, after ousting socialist President Salvador Allende on 11 September 1973.
Thousands of cases of human rights violations were reported during the period of his government. According to the report produced by the Rettig commission (Chile's Truth and Reconciliation Commission) in 1991, 3,196 people died as a consequence of political violence during Pinochet's regime. Of those, 1,185 remain ‘disappeared’.
Since 1998, Pinochet has been accused of dozens of human rights violations but hasn’t so far faced trial due to legal barriers – particularly the impunity he enjoyed as ex-President and Senator, and poor health.
In October 1998 anti-terrorist officers from Scotland Yard served an arrest warrant on Pinochet, just hours before he was due to leave the UK. An arrest warrant had been issued in Spain requesting Pinochet’s extradition on grounds that he was wanted for serious crimes, including widespread torture. Amnesty International was given leave to intervene in the subsequent House of Lords case, which agreed the extradition should go ahead. However, he was allowed to return to Chile when the then Home Secretary Jack Straw accepted a medical report stating that Pinochet was unfit to face trial in the UK.
Under Chilean law, General Pinochet needed to be stripped of his immunity from legal prosecution on a case-by-case basis before any charges against him could be filed. At the time of his death he was 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.
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