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The Chilean Investigation: The Legacy of Pinochet

The Chilean Investigation: The Legacy of PinochetIn Chile today, locals celebrate the feast of Saint Expeditus. Legend says that benevolence was granted to local pilgrims by officials after praying to the Saint. The recent history of the region, however, is not so seraphic. Chili's former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, faces continued investigations into atrocities committed at his hands, four months after his death. A Chilean investigation has uncovered evidence that Pinochet ordered agents to kill ex-President Eduardo Frei Montalva with mustard gas in 1982. The investigation uncovered traces of poison in the exhumed remains if Montalva. Additionally, it was alleged that after Montalva's death, doctors locked the room, removed his organs, and drained his bodily fluids.

Pinochet came to power following a CIA backed coup d'etat to remove the democratically elected Marxist regime in 1973. Following the coup, the regime took part in Operation Condor; a campaign meant to deter opposition forces and communist influence. It is estimated that some 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared' as a result of Operation Condor in Chili alone.

Amnesty laws in the region made prosecution difficult, even after Chili returned to democracy in 1990. In response to extradition requests by Spain, General Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998. The House of Lords ruled in his arrest that Pinochet lacked immunity under international law; a motion which encouraged Chilean courts to seek justice. In 1999, Chilean courts overcame many of the hurdles by stating that "disappearances' would be considered a crime until death was proven concretely. It was also determined that all applicable Geneva Conventions were in place in Chile due to its technical status of internal conflict following Pinochet's coup. Since then, some 150 people have been convicted of human rights violations and nearly 400 military officials face prosecution.

The willingness and the ability to face past atrocities is a sign post in the maturation of nations. Some argue that these actions only highlight the dark stains in a nation's history, while others make cries for justice. With no contribution to laws regarding human rights and benchmarks of normative behavior, the examination of the past make recovery for future generations possible.

In other news; In statements made at The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, President Bush stated that "genocide is the only word for what is happening in Darfur." This marks an important move in the resolution of the situation there.

The Economist has detailed coverage here.

Bloomberg has details of Frei Montalva here.



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors