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Chile: Pinochet's bloody legacy - thousands denied justice 40 years on

Thousands of torture survivors and relatives of those disappeared during General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal regime are still being denied truth, justice and reparation, Amnesty International said today on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the day he seized power.

In a petition already signed by thousands of activists, Amnesty is calling on the Chilean authorities to put an end to all obstacles protecting the perpetrators of human rights violations in the country.

Deputy Director at Amnesty’s Americas Programme, Guadalupe Marengo, said:

“It is not acceptable that 40 years after the military coup the search for justice, truth and reparation in Chile continues to be hampered. An amnesty law continues to shield human rights violators from prosecution, there are still long delays in judicial proceedings and sentences fail to reflect the severity of the crimes committed”.

According to official figures, nearly 40,000 people were illegally detained or tortured in Chile between 1973 and 1990. More than 3,000 people were murdered or disappeared.

The Amnesty Decree Law, passed in 1978, excludes all individuals who committed human rights violations between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978 from criminal responsibility.

While some judicial decisions have circumvented the application of the amnesty law, its continued existence is incompatible with Chile’s international human rights obligations.

Director of Amnesty International Chile, Ana Piquer, said:

“The Chilean authorities must tackle the legacy of serious and widespread abuses committed in the past, repeal the amnesty law immediately as its mere existence is a slap in the face to the thousands of victims of Pinochet’s regime and their relatives, and ensure all human rights violations are dealt with in ordinary courts.”

To date, at least 262 individuals have been sentenced for human rights violations and there are more than 1,100 open judicial proceedings.

Guadalupe Marengo added:

“It is mainly thanks to the continuous struggle of many of the victims and their families, and a few courageous prosecutors and judges, that some of those responsible for these crimes have been brought to justice. It is time for the authorities to introduce all reforms needed to guarantee that such grave violations never happen again.”

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