Statement by Spanish human rights organizations with regards to the competence of the Spanish National Court and the international detention order issued against Augusto Pinochet Ugarte

Madrid, November 13, 1998

The Spanish organizations enumerated lower down would like to express the following:

1) That the writs issued by the Criminal Court of the Audiencia Nacional (National Criminal Court) on November 4, 1998, for the Argentinean case, and November 5, 1998, for the Chilean case, serve to corroborate the competence of Spanish courts to investigate the serious crimes against human rights committed in those countries, among others, against spanish citizens who could never benefit from their legitimate right to justice as granted by the Spanish Constitution and the international instruments and conventions on human rights, without prejudice to the recognition of the massive character of the crimes which were committed and that have affected tens of thousands of victims in the mentioned countries.

We would like to underline the importance of the Audiencia Nacional's decision for it serves to confirm the universal criminal jurisdition of Spanish courts to know of serious crimes against human rights, including genocide, and we are also happy to welcome the fact that this decision had been taken unanimously.

2) That these writs create a very important law of precedent at an international level in the field of human rights for they are clearly enlarging the definitionof the crime of genocide and therefore contributing to save the conceptual obstacles that seem to have been opposed to the investigation's proceeding.

3) As we have already expressed in our written statement and oral intervention before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations during its 54th. session, we do consider that it is necessary to consolidate the universal criminal jurisdiction of domestic courts for serious crimes against human rights as defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court that has recently been approved at Rome.

4) We also believe that these writs have crucially contributed to the consolidation of the fight against impunity. From this point of view we are referring to impunity as a model that have characterized the democratic transitions in some places of the world -as it is the case of the countries concerned by the current investigations- and that clearly violates human rights for this model entails the repeal of the right to justice, the right to know the truth and the right to the economic, social, and historic redress of the victims and their relatives, as well as the denial of the punishment of the members of the criminal organizations that have perpetrated the genocide. Therefore, both decisions are a very important step forward -although not decisive- in the fight against impunity.

5) We would like to underline the importance of continuing working on the basis of all the contents which were agreed upon in the 1st. International Encounter on Impunity held at the European Parliament building in Madrid in 1996, as well as the papers and the final statement of the 1st. Encounter on Impunity and its Effects on Democratic Processes, held in Santiago de Chile on December 1996, and the conclusions of the Seminar on Impunity held in Buenos Aires on December 1997.

6) In the frame of this work against impunity, we do consider that it is necessary to widen and intensify the collaboration and the coordination among human rights defenders and their organizations in Europe, United States and Latin America, joining efforts and creating information networks in order to be able to respond to the effects of economic and social globalization derived from the dominant neoliberal model.

7) We do consider that it is very important that the current draft declarations on impunity on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights may become international legal instruments; therefore it is necessary their approval by the United Nations General Assembly.

8) We do look at the cases that are pending in Spain as a valuable precedent that should be taken into account as for a better regulation of the human rights protection international system so that the regional courts (v. g. Inter-American Court of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights) may become courts of third instance and the International Criminal Court an instrument of fourth instance. All of this would contribute to the effective and efficient protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights both in domestic and international law, going beyond the barrierof mere statements of good intentions and recognizing the indivisibility of all human rights.

9) We wish to express our gratitute to all human rights defenders and organizations from Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, and Italy that have made it possible for these cases to go ahead, as well as the Association of Judges for Democracy, who supported these proceedings since the very first moment and that has silently undertaken a very efficient and jointly shared work. We would also like to thank the Union of Progressive Prosecutors for having formally triggered the proceedings. We wish to congratulate the popular and private accusations that are party to the suits and very especially to the Salvador Allende Foundation and the Human Rights Secretariat of Izquierda Unida, whose strategy and legal foundations granted the continuity of the proceedings until they were both confirmed by the Criminal Court of the Audiencia Nacional.

10) Within this context, the indictment and provisional unconditional imprisonment order of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and also the subsequent polemics that has found its reflection in the international media, show clearly that impunity constitutes the main problem within the international human rights protection system and that international society is evidently concerned by this problem which, in its turn, has not been granted enough attention by governments and the competent international bodies. All of this serves to confirm that the international human rights system is an effective mechanism for the prevention of conflicts and the only valid tool in order to implement a preventive politics through which peace might be granted.

11) In the same way, we wish to express our deep concern for the behaviour conduct that has been shown by the Attorney's Office of the Audiencia Nacional and the Attorney-General's Office whose obstructionist attitude runs against their obligations as provided by the Spanish legal system; in particular, this attitude has been aggravated by the implementation of a decisive doctrine incompatible with the rule of law and that has turned our Attorney's Office into the only defense of the accused. Likewise we consider that the Spanish government has not acted with the forthrightness that would have been desirable with regards to the utilization of the avalaible legal remedies in order to put an end to this regrettable situation that perverts the rule of law.

This statement is endorsed by:
  • Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucia (Human Rights Association of Andalusia)
  • Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos de Espanha (Human Rights Association of Spain)
  • Equipo Nizkor (Nizkor Human Rights Team)
  • Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos (Federation of Associations for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, Spain)
  • Jueces para la Democracia (Judges for Democracy)
  • Ospaaal (Solidarity Organization with Latin America, Africa and Asia)
  • Serpaj Europe
    Edited by Nizkor Human Rights Team; Madrid, November 16, 1998

Trial Against Pinochet

small logo
This document is published online by Equipo Nizkor & Derechos Human Rights