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Mon Sep 14, 2015, 03:52 PM

Chile’s Amnesty Law keeps Pinochet’s legacy alive

Last edited Mon Sep 14, 2015, 05:52 PM - Edit history (1)

By Guadalupe Marengo, IPS News

“Many of them have died waiting for justice. Many have died in silence. We’ve had enough of painful waiting and unjustified silences. This is the time to join together in the search for truth.” With these words, one year ago, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 coup d’etat in which a defiant general Augusto Pinochet took power by force.

More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared and over 38,000 were detained arbitrarily and tortured during the 17 years of military regime that followed.

The Bachelet government promised to declare null and void the Amnesty Law, a decree passed by the Pinochet regime in 1978 to shield those suspected of committing human rights violations between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978 from facing the courts. The law sparked fierce debate in Chile, with many arguing it is nothing but a piece of legislation that hasn’t been used for many years. They are partly right.

In 1998 Chile’s Supreme Court ruled that the law should not apply to cases of human rights violations. This brave decision allowed for crucial investigations to move forward. Around 1,000 cases, 72 relating to allegations of torture, are active, according to data from the country’s Supreme Court from 2014. By October of the same year, 279 people had been found guilty in trials before ordinary civilian courts in connection with these crimes, and 75 were serving prison sentences. In May 2014, 75 former agents of Pinochet’s secret police (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, DINA) were sentenced to between 13 and 14 years in prison in connection with the disappearance of student Jorge Grez Aburto in 1974.

Other members of the DINA, including its former head Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, were sentenced last October to 15 years in prison for the disappearance of Carlos Guerrero Gutiérrez and Claudio Guerrero Hernández, in 1974 and 1975 respectively. Contreras died while serving the sentence of 500 years in prison for his responsibility in human rights violations committed during the Pinochet years. And on 16 August, Chile’s Supreme Court announced the prosecution of 15 members of Pinochet’s secret police for the killing of Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria Espinoza in 1976.

This ruling marked a U-turn on an earlier decision to archive the case, as it fell under the scope of crimes protected by the Amnesty Law. The fact is, however, that the Amnesty Law is still valid. It was for many years a shameful wall behind which torturers and murderers were able to hide.

This archaic decree is a shocking reminder of Pinochet’s tragic legacy, one that has no place in a country that claims to stand for justice and human rights. Further, it is an affront to victims who are still desperately seeking answers and justice. Declaring the Amnesty Law null and void would force Chile to come face-to-face with its troubled past and finally send the message that the abuses of the Pinochet era will never be tolerated again.

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-chiles-amnesty-law-keeps-pinochets-legacy-alive/

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Reply Chile’s Amnesty Law keeps Pinochet’s legacy alive (Original post)
forest444 Sep 2015 OP
Judi Lynn Sep 2015 #1
forest444 Sep 2015 #2

Response to forest444 (Original post)

Mon Sep 14, 2015, 07:24 PM

1. The Pinochet created Amnesty law needs to be retired immediately.

This is the time to do it while someone who was tortured herself, with her mother, and her father, who succumbed to Pinochet's torturers' barbaric treatment at the hands of his country's enemies, is still living, along with the others with broken bodies, spirits, who live haunted by nightmares from the excesses of these U.S. backed monsters.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #1)

Mon Sep 14, 2015, 09:25 PM

2. Well said.

It's encouraging to see that, as the article noted, hundreds of prosecutions are going forward despite the Pinochamnesty. Nevertheless, it's no doubt being used as a legal shelter by hundreds of others (especially well-connected civilians and the top brass) and thus remains a serious blight on Chile's otherwise stellar democracy of today.

If Argentina could do it despite all the rancor and threats from the right (and there's certainly been a lot), so can they.

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