to the Constitution drafted by the military regime in 1980
and still in effect in Chile today, former presidents may
become lifetime senators when they leave office. This provision
had the intention of ensuring Augusto Pinochet a continuing
role in power, and, perhaps more importantly, in conjunction
with the 1978 amnesty law, ensure him lifetime impunity
Pinochet kept hold of all his power as Army commander-in-chief
until the last moment of his mandate, and when he did step
down, he shielded himself immediately.
24 years as Army commander-in-chief and 65 years within
the ranks of the military, on March 10, 1998 Pinochet passed
his commander's baton to General Ricardo Izurieta. The next
day he swore in as lifetime senator, while hundreds protested
outside the national Congress.
years later, the plan to enshrine impunity for Augusto Pinochet
collapsed. On May 23, 2000, a decisive vote of 13 to 9 of
the Santiago Court of Appeals resolved to deprive the lifetime
senator of his congressional immunity. The Supreme Court
upheld that ruling on August 6, 2000, due to "probable cause"
of Pinochet's participation as author, accomplice and abettor
in the Caravan of Death.
historic decision opened the way for the indictment issued
by Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia (Dec. 1, 2000) against
Pinochet as coauthor of the crimes of aggravated abduction
and first degree murder committed by the Caravan of Death
in La Serena, Copiapo, Calama and Antofagasta. However,
a few months later (July 9, 2001), the Sixth Chamber of
the Court of Appeals ordered the temporary and partial dismissal
of the indictment of Pinochet, founding the ruling on the
new Criminal Proceedure Code which had not taken effect,
allowing for exmption from prosecution for persons who suffer
from madness or dementia.
the Supreme Court ruling the end of the road for a long
process that began with the arrest of Pinochet in London?
is this just the beginning of a new stage of legal battles?
the deprival of immunity valid only for the Caravan of Death
case or does it hold for the rest of the complaints filed
questions and other dimensions of the immunity issue will
be explored further on in this page.