Passport

France to charge Pinochet officials

Almost 37 years after the violent coup that ushered Augusto Pinochet into power in Chile, France will charge fourteen officials from Pinochet’s administration with kidnapping, torturing, and murdering four French citizens — including the dictator’s predecessor, former president Salvador Allende. The ex-officials will be tried in absentia; thus the decision to prosecute primarily serves to ...

SINEAD LYNCH/AFP/Getty Images
SINEAD LYNCH/AFP/Getty Images

Almost 37 years after the violent coup that ushered Augusto Pinochet into power in Chile, France will charge fourteen officials from Pinochet’s administration with kidnapping, torturing, and murdering four French citizens — including the dictator’s predecessor, former president Salvador Allende. The ex-officials will be tried in absentia; thus the decision to prosecute primarily serves to make a symbolic statement: especially given the incomplete and somewhat invalidated indictment of Pinochet, the chief engineers of the state-sponsored violence in the 1970’s must be held accountable.  

Not only did Pinochet die before his sentence was delivered, but the man who brought him to justice, Spanish magistrate Baltazar Garzon, has recently been scrutinized, his career (in which he was lauded for prosecuting Pinochet and Osama bin Laden) undermined.  Arraigned for charges of unlawful abuses and harboring political motivations while investigating Spanish Civil War atrocities, Garzon is now effectively suspended from his judicial duties.

When the dictator died, many Chileans took to the streets to guzzle champagne, toss confetti, and wave their nation’s flag. Still, with Pinochet’s premature passing and the potentially imminent subversion of his prosecutor, many feel unsatisfied. For them, the convictions of his co-conspirators could constitute some closure — or even a similar cause for celebration.

Almost 37 years after the violent coup that ushered Augusto Pinochet into power in Chile, France will charge fourteen officials from Pinochet’s administration with kidnapping, torturing, and murdering four French citizens — including the dictator’s predecessor, former president Salvador Allende. The ex-officials will be tried in absentia; thus the decision to prosecute primarily serves to make a symbolic statement: especially given the incomplete and somewhat invalidated indictment of Pinochet, the chief engineers of the state-sponsored violence in the 1970’s must be held accountable.  

Not only did Pinochet die before his sentence was delivered, but the man who brought him to justice, Spanish magistrate Baltazar Garzon, has recently been scrutinized, his career (in which he was lauded for prosecuting Pinochet and Osama bin Laden) undermined.  Arraigned for charges of unlawful abuses and harboring political motivations while investigating Spanish Civil War atrocities, Garzon is now effectively suspended from his judicial duties.

When the dictator died, many Chileans took to the streets to guzzle champagne, toss confetti, and wave their nation’s flag. Still, with Pinochet’s premature passing and the potentially imminent subversion of his prosecutor, many feel unsatisfied. For them, the convictions of his co-conspirators could constitute some closure — or even a similar cause for celebration.

Sylvie Stein is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.