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Chile Strips Pinochet of His Immunity

StoryAugust 11, 2000
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The Chilean Supreme Court stripped former dictator Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution this week, in a decision that dealt the beleaguered senator-for-life his worst defeat ever in his homeland. [includes rush transcript]

The justices voted 14 to 6 to uphold an appellate court ruling in May that found sufficient evidence to remove the parliamentary immunity of Pinochet and allow his prosecution for crimes by the "caravan of death," a roving army squad accused of murdering 72 people in 1973. Pinochet stands accused of much more than that. As Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and seized power in Chile, Pinochet and his forces are believed to have killed thousands of people and tortured thousands more.

Despite this week’s move by the Chilean Supreme Court, no one expects to see Augusto Pinochet in handcuffs soon, if ever.

Guest:

  • Joyce Horman, widow of journalist/human rights activist Charles Horman, who was disappeared and killed in Chile soon after the coup. His story was the focus of the movie "Missing."

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We move to the issue of Chile and the Supreme Court there stripping the former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, of his immunity from prosecution. This, in a decision that dealt the senator for life his worst defeat ever in his homeland. The justices voted fourteen-to-six to uphold an appellate court ruling in May that found sufficient evidence to remove the parliamentary immunity of Pinochet and allow his prosecution for crimes by the Caravan of Death, a roving army squad accused of murdering seventy-two people in 1973.

Of course, Pinochet stands accused of much more than that, as he overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and seized power in Chile. His forces are believed to have killed thousands of people and tortured thousands more. Despite this week’s move, though, by the Chilean Supreme Court, no one expects to see Pinochet in handcuffs soon, if ever.

We’re going now to Oregon to speak with Joyce Horman, who is the widow of journalist and human rights activist Charles Horman who was disappeared and killed in Chile soon after the coup. His story was the focus of Costa-Gavras’s movie, Missing. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Joyce Horman.

JOYCE HORMAN:

Thank you very much. It’s very good to be here.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, Joyce, your reaction to the decision of the Chilean Supreme Court, and clearly this must — this was a repercussion to what had been happening in England with Pinochet. But how do you see it?

JOYCE HORMAN:

Jeremy and Amy, it feels —

AMY GOODMAN:

That’s Juan.

JOYCE HORMAN:

— just about as wonderful as the day that we heard he was arrested. I just can’t tell you the good feeling it gives, that this is another step on the road to justice, that a few years ago we just didn’t expect to see happen. And here it is, and we’re all very grateful for it.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Now, what would be the steps that would have to occur now for him actually to appear in court?

JOYCE HORMAN:

I believe — it’s my understanding that there has to be a medical exam. And I also believe that he and his family do not want to agree to that. So there will be some other hurdles that — that have to be gotten over. But essentially the judicial part is very important right now, that they decided to uphold that removal of immunity.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Now, would this also extend to other high-ranking or former high-ranking members of the Pinochet regime?

JOYCE HORMAN:

It’s interesting. I don’t know the technical answer to that. It’s obvious that people believe it will have an impact. And if that’s just something that might change in the future or if that’s actually something that occurs with this decision, I’m unclear myself.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And in terms of the repercussions throughout the rest of Latin America, clearly there was – there’s been increasing information and public revelations about the Operation Condor situation throughout Latin America. Are you hopeful that this will pave the way to bring to justice those Pinochet-like individuals in other countries, in Argentina and Brazil and some of the other countries?

JOYCE HORMAN:

I think we’re all very hopeful of that. It seems to be a very complex road, but this is another important advance. And I think it’s important to the world, as well as to Latin America. I think it is an example of a country deciding that it must have justice for the wrongs that were committed there. And there is an international community at this point that upholds those concepts and is truly backing the process. And I think that’s also very important, because there’s still — we see in the press and everywhere, there’s still a resistance to letting the truth be known. There’s a huge denial on the part of those who were supporters of Pinochet. So this process hopefully can be the path to the real truth.

AMY GOODMAN:

And, Joyce Horman, your own lawsuit against the US government to get information about the killing of your husband by Pinochet and his forces, because the US government worked with Pinochet in his rise to power, how is that going?

JOYCE HORMAN:

On June 30th we received what we think is the last round of information for us, even though there is a general release on September 15th of many of the CIA documents that are coming out. We believe that the ones that are classified as pertaining to us have been given to us.

And we were very disappointed with the minimal amount. I mean, honestly, we know that the intelligence agencies have to have more documents than the ones that they are saying that they have, you know, reviewed. They say they’ve reviewed all the documents and they’ve given us the ones. But we don’t see reference to certain documents that we know are there.

And the circumstances of the case were that — it was such — there was such pressure on the US government to learn Charles’s whereabouts, that there have to be more — have to be more records in the files about their activities. If there aren’t, honestly, then no steps were being taken to protect him, or Frank Teruggi, for that matter, as well.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, Joyce Horman, I want to thank you very much for being with us, a widow of journalist and human rights activist Charles Horman, living in Chile at the time that Pinochet rose to power. He died, and Joyce Horman conducted a search for her husband before she knew he had died and now lives in the United States. Thanks for being with us.

JOYCE HORMAN:

Thank you, Amy.

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