Global Policy Forum

Augusto Pinochet


Augusto Pinochet

General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in 1973 by leading a military coup during which democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende died. Pinochet maintained power by dissolving parliament, banning all political parties and trade unions, and allegedly murdering thousands of Chileans who stood in opposition to his rule. Despite being charged first by a court in Spain in 1998 and then in his native Chile, Pinochet eluded prosecution by claiming he was mentally unfit to defend himself in legal proceedings. He died in December 2006, aged 91, escaping justice and accountability for his crimes.

Articles and Documents

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The Pinochet Money Trial (December 12, 2004)
As head of state, Chilean General Augusto Pinochet never received a salary higher than about $40,000 a year—yet the former dictator and his family have millions of dollars in US and offshore bank accounts. This New York Times investigative piece follows money laundering at Washington-based Riggs Bank, “commission for services� from foreign countries (including the US) and the lucrative privatization of Chilean state-owned companies. Even loyal supporters now question Pinochet’s honesty as these damaging facts emerge.



The Arrest of Augusto Pinochet: Ten Years on (October 29, 2008)
After the 1998 arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, countries started to apply universal jurisdiction to hold former leaders accountable for their human rights violations. However, countries use double standards when applying the principle and it is unlikely that leaders of powerful countries like Russia and the US will stand trial for human rights violations in Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. (openDemocracy)

Rights Chile: Ten Years of the ‘Pinochet Effect’ (October 9, 2008)
The British government arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet ten years ago in London. This Inter Press Service article argues that Pinochet’s arrest signals to human rights violators that they can face trial in countries other than their own, based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. The author argues that although the Chilean justice system itself supports prosecution of officials that violate human rights, some Chilean politicians still try to prevent criminal suits filed against them.



Pinochet's Death Spares Bush Family (December 12, 2006)
This Consortium News piece analyzes previous US administrations’ attempts to “cover up� the crimes of Chile’s former ruler Augusto Pinochet, who died in December 2006 without ever standing trial. In particular, the author focuses on one-time CIA director and former US President George H.W. Bush's constant support for Pinochet, despite the brutal tactics the former dictator used to silence his critics. The article highlights the problem of criminal high-ranking officials seeking to protect their “reputations� at the expense of uncovering truth and justice.

Pinochet: Justice and the General (December 11, 2006)
For decades, rogue Western leaders escaped scrutiny while notable African and Latin American “despots� received widespread criticism, says this International Herald Tribune piece. The investigation and arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet indeed “made the world a smaller place� for high-profile human rights violators. The author concludes that the Pinochet precedent should apply indiscriminately to criminal government and military officials from all countries.

Augusto Pinochet 1915-2006: He Took His Crimes to the Grave (December 11, 2006)
Augusto Pinochet died on December 10, 2006, leaving a brutal legacy of corruption, torture, kidnapping and politically-motivated killings during his 1973-1990 rule in Chile. Less than a month prior to his death, Pinochet grudgingly accepted political responsibility – but expressed no remorse – for these crimes. As many feared, the former Chilean dictator will never stand trial for gross human rights violations. The case exemplifies the importance of “speedy justice for human rights crimes� so that perpetrators do not escape prosecution – whether through old age, illness or death – and deny victims their retribution. (Independent)

The Pinochet Precedent (December 5, 2006)
The struggle to hold former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet accountable for crimes committed during his dictatorship has lasted well over three decades. According to this TomPaine piece, the case against Pinochet has set a precedent such that leaders can no longer “sit on privileged thrones above international law.� Moreover, the principle of universal jurisdiction – recognized in a growing number of nations – makes it difficult for high-ranking government and military leaders responsible for gross human rights abuses to escape to other countries to evade prosecution.

Ailing Pinochet Takes Responsibility for Dictatorship Abuses (November 25, 2006)
Augusto Pinochet has assumed “full political responsibility� for the widespread human rights violations committed during his 1973-1990 rule in Chile. But the admission brings little comfort to victims of the rights abuses as the aging and ailing former dictator still has immunity from prosecution in several pending cases. Pinochet defended his actions – in particular, wresting power from democratically-elected President Salvador Allende – as necessary to prevent the country’s “worsening� political and economic crises during the 1970s. (Associated Press)

Chile’s Pinochet Charged for Torture, Probed over Gold (October 27, 2006)
Chilean judge Alejandro Solis has called for the arrest of former ruler Augusto Pinochet on charges of kidnapping, torture and homicide committed at the Villa Grimaldi detention center, reports Agence France Presse. The judge dismissed Pinochet’s claims of incompetence to stand trial due to health reasons, which has stalled previous attempts to prosecute the former dictator for human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 rule. The case illustrates the international community’s growing commitment to holding high-level officials accountable for their crimes against humanity.

Pinochet to Face Tax Fraud Charges (August 19, 2006)
Following a ruling by Chile’s Supreme Court, former dictator Augusto Pinochet will face charges of corruption and embezzlement. Pinochet once held secret accounts in a number of US-based banks, and allegedly stole millions of dollars’ worth of government funds. Pinochet already faces indictments for human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 dictatorship. (al-Jazeera)

Chilean Court: Pinochet’s Loss of Immunity (July 17, 2006)
The Chilean Supreme Court will support a January 2006 ruling by an appeals court to strip Augusto Pinochet of the legal immunity granted to former heads of state. Pinochet has lost immunity on several occasions, but has evaded prosecution on the grounds of alleged incompetence to stand trial. The Supreme Court’s decision clears the path to indict Pinochet for crimes against humanity during his 17 year rule, including the 1973 murder of two bodyguards of then President Salvador Allende. (Associated Press)

Pinochet Stripped of Legal Immunity (January 11, 2006)
An appeals court has stripped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet of legal immunity, clearing the way for him to stand trial for the murder of two victims of the “Caravan of Death� case. The ruling allows a judge to indict Pinochet for the crime and re-opens the case which had previously been closed. Pinochet continues to use ill-health to dodge trial. (Associated Press)




Tax Charges Could Prove to be Pinochet's Downfall (August 25, 2005)
After developments in the tax crimes trial of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, journalists and politicians in Chile speculated that the former president might never be brought to justice for human rights violations, including his role in the deaths of over 3,000 Chileans during his regime. Instead, it appears that prosecutors will have more success proving that Pinochet committed crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. (Reuters)

"Pinochet Mentally Fit for Trial," Says Court in Chile (July 11, 2005)
After seven years of granting clemency to Augusto Pinochet on account of “mental illness,� a Santiago Appeals Court finds the former dictator mentally competent to stand trial. Evidence of his handling million-dollar bank accounts indicates that Pinochet might not be as “ill� as he claims, and as pro-Pinochet judges gradually disappear from Chile’s justice system, the former leader may finally face punishment for human rights violations committed during his dictatorship. (Santiago Times)

Payout for Pinochet Victims Shines in Dark Times for Human Rights (April 15, 2005)
Riggs Bank will pay US$9 million into a fund for victims of Augusto Pinochet, as compensation for hiding the former dictator’s illicit funds. This Foreign Policy In Focus article recounts the fight for justice against Pinochet and proclaims this latest development as a small but important victory in the human rights battle against impunity. The authors go on to describe the “stark contrast� between the efforts to bring Pinochet to justice and “the twisted human rights rhetoric – and record – of the US government.�

Pinochet’s Legacy Dims Under Cloud of Corruption, Abuse Probes (February 24, 2005)
The Chilean Supreme Court stripped Augusto Pinochet of his presidential immunity, indicted him for crimes perpetrated during his military dictatorship and placed him under house arrest in January. Yet his supporters continue to excuse the human rights abuses “as necessary measures to combat war against communist terrorists.� Rights advocates are outraged that Pinochet’s money laundering scandal caused greater controversy among this group. (Washington Post)

Pinochet Entangled in Web of Inquiries (February 7, 2005)
This New York Times piece details the “spider’s web of interlocking investigations� facing General Augusto Pinochet. From allegations of his involvement in General Carlos Prats’ 1974 assassination, to evidence of money laundering and misappropriation of funds, investigators have found witnesses willing to testify in the mounting number of cases against the former Chilean dictator. Such progress has dispelled initial fears that Chilean officials would consider Pinochet too “sacrosanct� to put on trial.

Fit to Be Tried (February 2005)
This Foreign Policy In Focus report chronicles the long struggle to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights abuses committed during his rule. Justice seekers have experienced setbacks under President Ricardo Lagos, most notably a January 2005 Chilean Supreme Court ruling that all lower courts must conclude their investigations into human rights abuses within six months. Despite this, the author remains optimistic that “maybe, just maybe, Pinochet will finally be tried in 2005.�

Letter From Chile (January 13, 2005)
Following the release of a report on political imprisonment and torture in November 2004, Chile has “opened the door to a national dialogue� on the crimes of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Since Pinochet’s indictment, public accountability remains an important issue on the human rights agenda. So far, the Chilean military has come forward and accepted responsibility for its role in the abuse, but controversially, the judiciary still refuses to do so. (The Nation)



Chile Turns Against Pinochet (December 22, 2004)
Augusto Pinochet’s defense lawyers claim the former dictator's hospitalization for another stroke justifies the claim that the he is not fit to stand trial. Prosecutors have said the illness was just another “theatrical move,� by Pinochet to bypass justice. As the Chilean Supreme Court debates on Pinochet’s murder charges appeal, Reuters reports that Pinochet “has lost credibility even among his strongest supporters.�

After Pinochet, Prosecute Kissinger (December 15, 2004)
Former Dictator Augusto Pinochet changed “one of the most vibrant democracies in the world� into a totalitarian regime. Judicial action against Pinochet begs the question: What about former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who allegedly helped bring Pinochet to power? AlterNet says that until Kissinger faces justice, “the rest of the world has a right to be incredulous when [US] leaders proclaim they want to spread democracy and human rights abroad.�

General Pinochet’s Trial Should Go Forward (December 15, 2004)
This Miami Herald opinion piece says efforts to bring General Augusto Pinochet to trial especially for “Operation Condor,� a killing and kidnapping network operated by six South American countries in the 1970s, could increase accountability for other former military leaders who “tried to sweep the past under the rug� as well.

Pinochet Indicted for Human Rights Cases (December 13, 2004)
Chilean Judge Juan Guzman declared Augusto Pinochet fit for trial and immediately indicted him for nine kidnappings and one homicide that occurred during the 1970s “Operation Condor.� Pinochet, who is again under house arrest, also faced charges in 2002 for murder and responsibility for “disappearances� but the Chilean Supreme Court ruled that the 89-year-old was mentally unfit for judicial proceedings. Whether or not the case goes to trial, “Chile has taken another step forward on the path to justice for atrocities committed under military rule,� says Human Rights Watch.

US and Others Gave Millions to Pinochet (December 7, 2004)
A US Senate committee investigation uncovered documents showing multimillion-dollar payments to former Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet from the US and other countries, under the guise of “commissions from service and travel abroad.� The US payments date from 1976, when the assassination of Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington DC caused critics to raise several questions about US relations with the Chilean dictatorship. (New York Times)

Pinochet Spy Chief Denied Amnesty (November 18, 2004)
In 1978, General Augusto Pinochet “issued an amnesty� to any human rights abuses that occurred from 1973 to that date. But the Chilean Supreme Court has effectively removed that amnesty by declaring Pinochet’s law does not cover disappearance cases. The ruling, which lets lower courts “hold accountable those responsible for grave human rights violations,� upholds the jail sentence of Pinochet’s former secret police chief for his involvement in the 1975 disappearance of a Movement of the Revolutionary Left member. (BBC)

Secret Report on Testimony From Torture Victims Triggers Debate (November 10, 2004)
Chilean President Ricardo Lagos received a special commission report, including testimony from 35,000 victims, on torture methods and human rights violations that occurred during General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship. The Chilean army admitted responsibility for the violations. But several former officials—including Pinochet, who faces charges in Chile and other countries—deny that such crimes occurred. (Inter Press Service)

Chilean Army Admits Pinochet-Era Abuses (November 5, 2004)
The Chilean army issued a statement claiming “institutional responsibility� for human rights violations committed during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship from 1973-1990. Current Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said the “historic step� has granted the army “integration to today's democratic Chile.� Human rights groups also praise the admission and hope other military branches will acknowledge violations as well. (Associated Press)

Pinochet May Have Legal Cover in Any Abuse Trials (October 12, 2004)
Augusto Pinochet’s supporters will likely overlook the former Chilean dictator’s human rights abuses but not tolerate corruption charges, says the Miami Herald. Critics believe the courts will uphold previous decisions to delay the case for Pinochet’s supposedly ailing health, and the judge claims government officials have pressured him to dismiss the case on such grounds as well.

Pinochet Faces Tax Charges in Chile (October 2, 2004)
Just weeks after a Spanish court began investigating Augusto Pinochet on money laundering and asset concealment, the Chilean Internal Tax Service has filed a similar complaint concerning the General’s accounts at Riggs Bank. The Washington-based bank previously paid fines for failing to follow money-laundering regulations, and some of the employees could face justice for helping Pinochet conceal accounts of between $4 and $8 million. (Washington Post)

Judge Questions Pinochet About Killings Under His Rule (September 26, 2004)
Judge Juan Guzmán interrogated General Augusto Pinochet at the former Chilean dictator’s home about Operation Condor, a secret assassination mission resulting in 19 deaths in the 1970’s. Pinochet’s ailing health cut the meeting short, but the judge said “it was an encounter between gentleman.� (New York Times)

Chile Finds Rails Possibly Used in Deaths (September 22, 2004)
Divers for a court-ordered investigation on former General Augusto Pinochet found pieces of railroad track, allegedly used to sink the remains of those killed during the dictator’s reign, off Santiago’s coast. Though Pinochet's claims of ill health have led other courts to drop charges, Chile's Supreme Court stripped him of his immunity as a former president and the judge expects to begin questioning soon. (Associated Press)

Spanish Judge Charges Pinochet with Money Laundering (September 16, 2004)
A Spanish court charged General Augusto Pinochet, his wife, and employees of Riggs Bank in Washington with money laundering and concealment of assets, according to this Reuters article.

Facing Chilean Justice (August 27, 2004)
Chile's Supreme Court has lifted the immunity previously granted to former President Augusto Pinochet. Confronted with lack of political support from a divided right and a growing offensive by plaintiffs and judges, Pinochet will likely have to face justice in his native Chile. (Le Monde diplomatique)

Pinochet Still Haunts Chile's Civilian Government (July 19, 2004)
The US Senate released a report accusing a US bank of helping former dictator Augusto Pinochet to shelter his money in personal and corporate accounts without revealing his full identity. The report comes less than two month after a Chilean court stripped Pinochet of immunity from prosecution in May 2004. Human rights groups and others hope that the financial scandal might aid the campaign to bring Pinochet to justice. (New York Times)

Court Strips Chile's Pinochet of Immunity (May 28, 2004)
A Chilean Court stripped former military leader Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution, paving the way for a possible trial of the dictator on human rights charges. Human rights lawyers have sued Pinochet in connection with the deaths of several Chileans in the so-called ``Operation Condor,'' executed by South American military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. (Associated Press)

The Ripple Effect of the Pinochet Case (May 24, 2004)
The 1998 detention of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London and the resulting legal proceedings against him sparked movements against impunity in Chile and Argentina. Activists should continue to utilize international mechanisms such as universal jurisdiction to reinforce domestic efforts to hold human rights violators accountable for their crimes. (Institute for Policy Studies)



Ex-Dictator Pinochet May Face New Chile Trial (December 23, 2003)
Chile’s second highest court agreed to hear a new bid to strip former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution and try him for crimes against humanity. A television interview, in which former Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet appeared neither senile nor forgetfull, prompted the new investigations. (Reuters)

Pinochet Interview Revives Trial Hope (December 5, 2003)
A television interview with former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet revives hopes to put him on trial for human rights crimes. Pinochet claims that he is mentally unfit to defend himself at trial, but he appeared lucid and coherent during the interview. (Guardian)

Bay Area Family Wins Historic Verdict in Trial against Pinochet Operative for Role in 1973 Killing during "Caravan of Death" (October 15, 2003)
A US court for the first time found a member of Pinochet's military junta guilty of crimes against humanity. This landmark case coincides with the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Augusto Pinochet in London and raises hopes to bring Pinochet himself to justice. (Center for Justice and Accountability)



Secret Unit Allegedly Regroups to Shield Chilean Rights Violators (September 10, 2002)
Human rights groups and the Chilean government demand an investigation into “the regrouping of a secret unit� used by dictator General Pinochet to destroy leftist parties. Activists say this secret group will work to block legal action against security forces agents accused of human rights violations during Pinochet’s regime. (Inter Press Service)

Pursuing Pinochet (February 6, 2002)
The attempt to put Augusto Pinochet on trial has not been abandoned. Following Juan Guzman’s refusal to declare the ex-dictator unfit to stand trial, Chile’s supreme court is currently deciding on his mental health. (Guardian)

Rally for Justice in Pinochet Case, World Peace (October 29, 2001)
A rally called “Caravan for Life and Justice� took place in Chile to re-open the trial of former dictator Augusto Pinochet and serve as a call for global justice. (Inter Press Service)



A Chronology of the Pinochet Affair (July 9, 2001)
This timeline spans Pinochet's rise to power in 1973, his fall in 1989, the charges against him by a Spanish court while he was in a UK hospital in 1998, his return to Chile, his arrest there by the Santiago court, and finally, the suspension of his case on the grounds that he was not fit to stand trial. (BBC)

Pinochet Profile: Saviour or Tyrant? (July 25, 2000)
Nick Caistor provides a brief account of Pinochet's military dictatorship of Chile and brutal oppression of leftist political opposition during his reign. (BBC)


This web site provides updates on current developments and action alerts to bring the former General to justice.



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