FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Indictment of Pinochet a Victory for International Law

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is finally being brought to justice. This represents a victory not only for Chilean civil society, but for international law. It also reopens the possibility of prosecuting Pinochet for a 1976 murder in Washington, D.C.

On Sept. 21, 1976, Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, his colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, died in a car bombing on Washington’s Embassy Row. Letelier, exiled in Washington, had served as defense minister under the deposed government of democratically elected President Salvador Allende. Moffitt was his colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank where they both worked.

The FBI traced the plot to the highest offices of the Chilean government and indicted the two top officials of its intelligence and secret police agencies. But Pinochet’s name was dramatically absent from the indictment despite the fact that two FBI special agents and U.S. prosecutor Lawrence Barcella all stated publicly that it was “inconceivable” that Letelier could have been targeted without Pinochet’s authorization.

Successive attorneys general, reflecting presidential political proclivities, have not placed Pinochet’s name on the still open Letelier-Moffitt murder indictment.

Before leaving the post of president, after he lost in a 1988 referendum, Pinochet granted himself amnesty and made himself senator for life and then used this protected status to systematically evade the clutches of the law in Chile and abroad.

In 1996, however, a Spanish court indicted Pinochet for crimes against humanity, genocide and international terrorism. The civilian government that replaced Pinochet appointed a commission to investigate the depth of repression under his rule. The Rettig Commission reported in the mid-1990s that Pinochet’s secret police and armed forces had assassinated or “disappeared” 3,197 people. Tens of thousands were tortured and more forced into exile. Despite this documented evidence of wrongdoing, the Chilean courts and civilian government were afraid to act.

In 1998, a Spanish judge petitioned British authorities to detain Pinochet — who had traveled to London — on those charges and, after more than a year of appeals, the House of Lords upheld a part of the Spanish indictment.

Pinochet was let go after a team of doctors found him physically and mentally unfit to stand trial. Skeptics, however, stated their belief that Pinochet was faking.

Judge Juan Guzman, who was appointed to investigate several cases of disappeared people, watched Pinochet on television, in a 2002 interview he gave to a Miami station, and found him coherent. Guzman subsequently interviewed the 89-year-old former dictator and declared him fit for trial.

On Dec. 13, he indicted Pinochet for 10 specific acts of kidnapping and murder. Thanks to a small group of Spanish lawyers and judges, and to Guzman, international law resurfaced.

Guzman’s indictment makes a firm statement about international terrorism. Now it’s Washington’s turn.

Letelier’s murder and the crimes charged by Guzman arose from Operation Condor, a secret network of intelligence and secret police agencies throughout South America that, for a decade or more, assassinated political opponents throughout the world. Pinochet helped found this organization and Chile was its home. This makes Pinochet one of the world’s leading terrorists.

An unsigned indictment of Pinochet for his authorship of the Letelier murder sits on the desk of the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. Political murder on the streets is not acceptable in Santiago. Nor should it be acceptable in Washington. The U.S. attorney should indict Pinochet now.

SAUL LANDAU teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University, where he is the director of Digital Media Programs and International Outreach, and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He is also the co-author of “Assassination on Embassy Row,” which is about the Letelier and Moffitt murders. His new book is The Business of America.

 

More articles by:

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 11, 2019
Vijay Prashad
Why the Afghanistan Papers Are an Eerie Reminder of Vietnam
Kenneth Surin
Australia’s Big Smoke
Sameer Dossani
Ideology or Popularity: How Will Britain Vote?
John W. Whitehead
Who Will Protect Us From an Unpatriotic Patriot Act?
Binoy Kampmark
Interference Paranoia: Russia, Reddit and the British Election
Scott Tucker
Sure, Impeach Trump, But Let’s be Honest
Nyla Ali Khan
Homogenizing India: the Citizenship Debate
Thomas Knapp
Congress: The Snail’s Pace Race
Shawn Fremstad
Modern Family Progressivism
Joseph Essertier
Julian Assange, Thanks for Warning Japanese About Washington
William Minter
How Africa Could Power a Green Revolution
December 10, 2019
Tony McKenna
The Demonization of Jeremy Corbyn
John Grant
American Culture Loves a Good Killer
Jacob Hornberger
Afghanistan: a Pentagon Paradise Built on Lies
Nick Licata
Was Trump Looking for Corruption or a Personal Favor?
Thomas M. Magstadt
What’s the Matter With America?
Brian Tokar
Climate Talks in Madrid: What Will It Take to Prevent Climate Collapse?
Ron Jacobs
Where Justice is a Game: Impeachment Hearings Redux
Jack Rasmus
Trump vs. Democracy
Walden Bello
Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics
Binoy Kampmark
A Troubled Family: NATO Turns 70
Brian Horejsi
Citizens Are Never Trusted
Michael Barker
Self-Defense in the Civil Rights Movement: the Lessons of Birmingham, 1963
John Feffer
Soldiers Who Fight War
Howie Wolke
Willingness to Compromise Puts Wilderness at Risk
December 09, 2019
Jefferson Morley
Trump’s Hand-Picked Prosecutor John Durham Cleared the CIA Once, Will He Again?
Kirkpatrick Sale
Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold
Ishmael Reed
Bloomberg Condoned Sexual Assault by NYPD 
W. T. Whitney
Hitting at Cuban Doctors and at Human Solidarity
Louisa Willcox
The Grizzly Cost of Coexistence
Thomas Knapp
Meet Virgil Griffith: America’s Newest Political Prisoner
John Feffer
How the New Right Went Global — and How to Stop It
Ralph Nader
Why Not Also Go With “The Kitchen Table” Impeachable Offenses for Removal?
Robert Fisk
Meet the Controversial Actor and Businessman Standing Up Against Egypt’s el-Sisi
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Sri Lanka Continues Its Delicate Dance With India
Dahr Jamail
Savoring What Remains: Dealing With Climate PTSD
George Wuerthner
Bison Slaughter in Yellowstone…Again
Scott Tucker
Premature Democratic Socialists: Reasons for Hope and Change
Julian Rose
Polish Minister of Health Proposes Carcinogenic 5G Emission Levels as National Norm
Dean Baker
Coal and the Regions Left Behind
Robert Koehler
Envisioning a United World
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail