New legislation 'a step closer to justice' for Pinochet victims

By agency reporter
October 7, 2014

New legislation to overturn a law that has been shielding perpetrators of human rights violations would bring justice a step closer to the victims of General Augusto Pinochet says Amnesty International.

Plans to overturn the law were announced last month to mark the 41st anniversary of the military coup that installed Pinochet in power. The bill to reverse the legislation is currently before parliament.

Amnesty International’s Americas Deputy Director Guadalupe Marengo said: “For many years this law acted as a shield, hiding those responsible for serious human rights abuses from justice. Victims have been forced to live knowing those that tortured and killed were walking freely, unpunished.

“Overturning this law would be an historic moment for Chile and would bring the country one step closer to addressing the crimes of the Pinochet regime, as well as sending a clear message that Chile does not protect those responsible for human rights violations.”

Passed in 1978, the Amnesty Decree Law exempts all individuals who committed human rights violations between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978 from criminal responsibility.

More than 3,000 people were disappeared or extra-judicially killed in Chile between 1973 and 1990, according to official figures.

In recent years, some judicial decisions have circumvented application of the law. However, its continued existence is incompatible with Chile’s international human rights obligations and represents an affront to the thousands of victims of Pinochet’s regime and their relatives, says Amnesty.

Guadalupe Marengo added: “This law has been a deplorable legacy of the military regime. Its existence is a source of enduring pain for the country. By declaring the Amnesty Decree Law null and void Chile will have the opportunity to redress the victims and their families.

“Nearly 25 years after the end of the military regime Chile is finally moving towards righting the wrongs of the past; this is an opportunity that cannot be missed.”

Last month, in the context of the 41st anniversary of the 1973 Pinochet military coup, the Chilean government announced its intention to speed up (suma urgencia) the annulment of the Amnesty Decree Law on the basis of a bill introduced in 2006. This was done on 23 September. On 30 September the urgency was lowered (urgencia simple). The bill is currently under discussion in the Congress.

Two other important bills to fight impunity for past crimes which were tabled before Congress in 2006 and 1994 have also been reactivated.

One of the bills is intended to reform article 93 of the Penal Procedural Code (Codigo Procesal Penal) to ensure that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are not subject to amnesty, pardon or statute of limitations. The other bill is seeking Chile's adherence to the 1968 Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.

Amnesty International has welcomed the decision to make these bills a priority and has urged Chile to ensure that no reservation or declaration amounting to reservation is passed when adhering to the Convention.


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