Chile Takes Aim at ‘Dirty War’ Perpetrators

Human rights advocates have applauded a Sept. 1 decision by a Chilean judge to issue arrest warrants for 131 former army soldiers and operatives of the National Intelligence Directorate, DINA, on charges of rights violations during the Augusto Pinochet era.

At least four dozen of the warrants are related to charges associated with Operation Colombo, a disinformation campaign widely believed to be aimed at hiding human rights abuses, and Operation Condor, a concerted disappearance campaign against dissidents carried out jointly by military regimes in the region.

The order from Judge Victor Montiglio is the largest single human rights-related prosecution effort in Chilean history.

Amnesty International called the judge’s decision an important step for the country. “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 … 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,” Susan Lee, AI’s Americas director, said in a press release.

Pinochet, who left behind several ongoing court cases against him when he died in December 2006, seized power as part of a 1973 military coup that toppled Marxist President Salvador Allende and ushered in a dark period of authoritarian rule. Over 2,000 people disappeared during the Pinochet years from 1973-1990, with another 30,000 tortured by the dictator’s regime.

Efforts to bring the former dictator to trial were repeatedly postponed or defeated by his deteriorating mental and physical health.