AI's statement on Pinochet's coup

After a quarter of a century total government commitment to truth and justice is required.

By Amnesty International

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The civilian government of Chile must shoulder once and for all its responsibilities towards the relatives of victims of crimes against humanity perpetrated during the military regime, Amnesty International said today on the 25th anniversary of the military coup.

"It is now time for the Chilean Government to unequivocally acknowledge the gravity of the crimes committed under the military government and the efforts of the relatives of the victims to clarify the events. In a clear commitment to the future the Chilean Government should reject half-measures to deal with its human rights legacy."

The continuing application of the so-called Amnesty Law -- in reality a self-amnesty, enacted during the military government of General Augusto Pinochet -- has lead to the closure of human rights cases, hindering the emergence of truth and shielding those responsible for past human rights violations from prosecution.

Amnesty International has long campaigned against impunity, which, it argues, undermines truth and justice. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States has also repeatedly called on the State of Chile to adjust its domestic legislation so that past human rights violations may be investigated and those responsible effectively punished.

"The annulment of the Amnesty Law would provide the cornerstone for the overdue right to truth and justice to prevail. It would also fulfil the Chilean State's international obligations on human rights issues," Amnesty International said.

The Commission has stated that "The continued application of the amnesty law by a democratic government even after the end of the military government which enacted this law, has legal implications which are incompatible with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights."

The government of Chile should meet its commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (adopted by the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights) which requires governments to "abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations of human rights ... and prosecute such violations thereby providing a firm basis for the rule of law," Amnesty International said.

The legacy of human rights violations committed between 1973 and 1990 remains open. Chilean society is still divided as a result and the fate of thousands of victims of human rights violations remains unknown, although not forgotten.

"Lasting reconciliation can only come from establishing the full truth and punishing those who abused their position of authority to order and carry out human rights violations," Amnesty International said.


The 1978 Amnesty law (Decree Law 2.191) was enacted by the military government which overthrew the constitutional Government of President Salvador Allende on 11 September 1973.

It prevents prosecution of individuals implicated in certain criminal acts committed between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978. This was the period of the state of siege when thousands of Chileans suffered grave human rights violations including torture, execution and "disappearance". Several hundred political prisoners also benefitted from the 1978 Amnesty Law and were released.

Following the return to civilian rule in 1990, two bodies were created in different periods to gather information leading to the clarification of the truth about "disappearances", extrajudicial executions and deaths resulting from torture by state agents. At the end of its mandate in 1996, the Reparation and Reconciliation Corporation --established in 1992 as a successor to the truth and Reconciliation Commission (Rettig Commission) set up by the administration of President Patricio Aylwin-- published a report officially documenting 3,197 cases of victims of human rights violations.

The fate of most of the "disappeared" in Chile remains unknown. Chilean courts -both civilian and military - have systematically closed judicial proceedings in hundreds of cases involving human rights violations by applying the 1978 Amnesty Law. The vast majority of those who committed human rights violations under the government of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) remain unpunished.

Many of the most serious human rights violations were committed by the intelligence services -- Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, Directorate of National Intelligence and Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI), the National Information Centre -- which reported to President Augusto Pinochet through the Minister of the Interior. Although a former head of the DINA, General Manuel Contreras, is serving a prison sentence for the assassination of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Orlando Letelier in Washington, General Augusto Pinochet, in virtue of the Constitution passed during his rule, is sitting as Senator for life.

Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom. News Service 174/98 - AI Index AMR 22/07/98 - 10 SEPTEMBER

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