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Guzmán discusses Pinochet

Irena Zajickova | Friday, November 14, 2008

Juan Guzmán, the Chilean judge famous for indicting dictator Augusto Pinochet, discussed the human rights violated during Pinochet’s dictatorship and how some human rights continue to be violated in Chile, at the Hesburgh Center Thursday.

Guzmán, who is currently the director of the Center for Human Rights at the Universidad Central de Chile, investigated potential human rights violations by Pinochet’s regime and spoke extensively with torture survivors.

“I don’t remember one that didn’t cry. Everyone cried. And I cried with them,” Guzmán said.

Guzmán began his lecture with a description of the coup Pinochet staged on Sept. 11, 1973.

“La Moneda, our White House, was bombed theatrically,” Guzmán said. “The president was killed. Pinochet gave the order to have him killed.”

Guzmán also described the consequences of the coup, which he described as “human sacrifices.” According to official figures, over 3,000 people were assassinated, over 1,200 people are still missing and over 2,500 people were exiled. Guzmán said the actual numbers, however, are much higher than the numbers given.

The methods of torture were particularly gruesome, Guzmán said. People were tracked down, shoved into unmarked cars and taken to concealed prisons.

“They were tortured in the most terrible forms,” he said.

Guzmán also said water torture, sexual abuse, asphyxiation and electric shocks, among other methods, were used to torture prisoners. The tortured men and women were always naked.

“When I asked the people who survived what was the worst thing for them, they said the worst thing was to be naked in front of so many people,” he said. “Being naked was the ultimate humiliation.”

After the end of Pinochet’s regime, impunity ran rampant through Chile. An amnesty law that applied to the harshest years of the regime prevented the prosecution of violent crimes such as homicide and torture.

Advances in human rights came in the 1900s, Guzmán said. A new criminal procedure put all power in the judges’ hands, and an investigation provided judges with the names of those killed, abducted and tortured, as well as who committed the crimes against the victims.

“The investigations began with lawsuits in 1998 against Pinochet – for assassination, for abduction, for torture,” Guzmán said. “Nobody ever thought Pinochet was going to be subpoenaed.”

While the investigation was going on, Pinochet was in London, but an order was filed that he be extradited to Spain. A court found that Pinochet was mentally unfit and could not be tried in Spain.

“He returned to Chile and walked around showing everyone how well he was,” Guzmán said.

Guzmán filed an order to lift Pinochet’s immunity, which won a majority vote and was implemented. Guzmán indicted him in three cases, but the Supreme Court overruled two of them.

Guzmán said although Chile has made great advances and achieved great progress, human rights are still being violated. Indigenous people, students and other groups are being silenced, and when they mobilize, they are imprisoned.

“After four governments that are called democratic governments, we are still violating different human rights and impunity continues to rule in Chile,” Guzmán said.