In this section which is incomplete and under construction we will look at the process that resulted in the historic Supreme Court ruling that deprived Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution.



According 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 from prosecution.

Augusto 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.

After 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.

Two 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.

This 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.

Is the Supreme Court ruling the end of the road for a long process that began with the arrest of Pinochet in London?

Or is this just the beginning of a new stage of legal battles?

Does the deprival of immunity valid only for the Caravan of Death case or does it hold for the rest of the complaints filed against Pinochet?

These questions and other dimensions of the immunity issue will be explored further on in this page.





| Home | English | Español |