Chile issues arrest warrants against at least 120 Pinochet agents

The arrest warrants issued by a Chilean judge against at least 120 people – all of whom had worked as military or security personnel – constitute an important step towards justice in a country that hasn’t paid sufficient attention to its past, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Chilean Judge Victor Montiglio issued the arrest warrants against the agents in relation to a number of security operations that targeted opponents of Augusto Pinochet during the 1970s. It is not yet clear exactly how many arrest warrants have been issued but it is thought that there may be as many as 165.

These security operations in question include Operation Condor – a coordinated campaign to detain and forcibly disappear people opposed to the military regimes in South America – and Operation Colombo, in the context of which the enforced disappearance of 119 Chilean activists was portrayed by the government as a result of an internal feud.

Many of the warrants have been issued against agents who have not yet been tried for their roles in human rights violations committed during the military regime.

“Chile has publicly recognized its troubled past,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “What needs to happen now is for the government to take more steps, such as forcing the Army to disclose once and for all the information it has on the human rights violations committed during the Pinochet regime , to ensure that justice is done for all human rights abuses during the Pinochet regime.”

Operation Condor was a plan coordinated by the military governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay to eliminate “opponents” during the 1970s and 1980s. In the context of the Operation, widespread human rights abuses were committed, including killings and enforced disappearances.

Most of those responsible for the abuses have not yet been identified nor brought to justice.

“Survivors and relatives of victims of torture, killings and enforced disappearances that were committed in the context of Operation Condor are still waiting for justice,” said Susan Lee. “It is time for governments in the region to ensure that justice does not have to wait a day longer.”

In another positive development on Wednesday, the Chilean Senate adopted the International Convention for the protection of people against enforced disappearances. The Convention will become law after the approval of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and, although it will not apply to crimes committed in the past, it will be an important protection against future crimes.