Global Policy Forum

Facing Chilean Justice

Le Monde
August 27, 2004

There is now every reason to believe that the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who held his country in an iron grip for seventeen years, will now, finally, have to account for himself before the law in Santiago. Chile's Supreme Court has lifted the immunity the Chilean parliament had accorded him as former president in 2000. This decision should provide a positive outcome for the many attempts in Chile and abroad [to bring justice to bear] by the families of the dictatorship's victims, who included at least 3,000 dead and disappeared between 1973 and 1990.

This judgment, which shows how serene and solid democracy in Chile is today, was pronounced following double political and legal developments in the Pinochet case.

The first is the dictator's progressive isolation from his own clan as his transfers of 4 to 8 million dollars to the United States, sums that do not correspond to his salaries as general and president, were discovered in an American Senate report. In other words, Pinochet and his family enriched themselves while they were in power and an inquiry has been opened by Chilean justice with regard to eventual corruption, fraud and illicit enrichment. That the bloody dictator should also be a thief has divided the right and lost him his political support.

The second development is the recovery of the offensive by the plaintiffs and the judges provoked by Augusto Pinochet's arrogant attitude before the media. His lawyers had virtually gotten him off from appearing at previous trials by pleading dementia and senility characterized their 88 year old client. That was specifically the case with the British court before which he had been led by the [Spanish] judge Baltasar Garzon: after long debates and 503 days of prison, London freed the dictator for medical reasons. [He got off] the same way, in 2002, this time before a Chilean court following charges concerning the "death caravan", the assassination of 75 opponents in September and October 1973.

So now the general has appears on television programs, in fine fettle, lucid, and even joking on the anniversary of his coup d'Etat, as though taunting his former victims. Behind the lie of his illness, Augusto Pinochet was broadcasting his contempt for democratic justice; now he's paying for it, a victim of his own cynicism.

The Supreme Court's decision concerns a complaint over "Operation Condor", a network put together at the time by Latin American dictatorships against leftist militants, with the approval of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger's United States. Other countries, like Argentina, want to judge this past straightaway and take responsibility for it. Chile must also do this, Pinochet having been the first link in the chain.

That Chile's dictator should face justice in his own country is the best outcome, regardless of the delay. Crimes of state should not go unpunished.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the Rogues Gallery


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.