From email@example.com Wed Mar 15 06:08:44 2000
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 21:40:40 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RIGHTS-CHILE: Army Defiant on Eve of Inauguration of New Gov't
Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Army Defiant on Eve of Inauguration of New Gov't
By Gustavo Gonzalez, IPS
10 March 2000
SANTIAGO, Mar 10 (IPS) - The Chilean army reiterated Friday, on
the eve of the inauguration of president-elect Ricardo Lagos, its
support for former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who faces the
possibility of being tried for human rights violations.
At a ceremony in Antofagasta, 1,200 kms north of Santiago,
marking his second year as commander-in-chief of the army, General
Ricardo Izurieta delivered a speech described by political
analysts as "defiant."
Izurieta's speech came a week after the armed forces irritated
the government of President Eduardo Frei by throwing a hero's
welcome when Pinochet returned to Chile after more than a year and
a half under house arrest in London.
The reception ceremony for the elderly former dictator was
indirectly referred to by Frei Wednesday as a "provocation."
Frei, a Christian Democrat, will hand over power to Lagos, a
moderate socialist, Saturday in the third peaceful passing of the
mantle since March 1990, the end of Pinochet's iron-fisted rule
that began with a bloody Sep 11, 1973 coup that overthrew
socialist president Salvador Allende.
One of the biggest challenges to be left to the centre-left
Coalition for Democracy in its third (second consecutive) term of
government are the demands that Pinochet - a life senator since
March 1998 - be tried.
The 84-year-old retired army chief currently faces 72 lawsuits
on charges of human rights violations, being investigated by Judge
Juan Guzm n.
On Monday, Guzm n filed a request with the Santiago appeals
court that Pinochet be stripped of the immunity he enjoys as
senator-for-life. That would enable him to be tried in connection
with the "caravan of death" - a special military mission that
killed off and disappeared at least 70 political prisoners around
the country shortly after the coup.
The appeals court will possibly hand down a decision on the
lifting of Pinochet's immunity within a month, but the ruling can
be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pinochet will be defended by
lawyers paid by the army.
The State Defence Council (Chile's public prosecutors office)
decided Tuesday to take part in the cases against Pinochet. The
president of the State Defence Council, Clara Szczaranski, said
Wednesday that her office would argue before the appeals court in
favour of stripping Pinochet of parliamentary immunity.
And on Friday, Spanish Judge Baltasar GarzĒn, who issued the
arrest warrant on the basis of which Pinochet was arrested in
London in the first place, offered to collaborate with Guzm n in
the attempt to bring the former dictator to trial for crimes
GarzĒn offered his assistance in the framework of the 1948
international convention against genocide, the 1984 international
convention against torture, and treaties on extradition and legal
assistance signed by Spain and Chile.
In a message to Guzm n, the Spanish judge said he would
continue working on the cases he has been investigating since 1996
on genocide, terrorism and torture against former dictators in
Argentina and Chile. He added that the international arrest
warrant for Pinochet would remain in effect.
GarzĒn also sent a letter to the British Crown Prosecution
Service, which represented Spain in the trial for the extradition
The judge expressed gratitude for the British prosecutors'
efforts and professionalism, which he said had "clearly
contributed to consolidating the principle of universal justice in
persecuting extremely grave crimes against humanity."
Izurieta said Friday, meanwhile, that the Chilean army would
continue supporting the retired general, who suffered "an unjust
and lengthy" arrest in Britain. The general added that the army
would fight for "history to be written in accordance with the
Izurieta became army chief on Mar 10, 1998, succeeding
Pinochet, who had held the post for nearly 25 years since being
designated by president Allende on Aug 23, 1973 - three weeks
before Pinochet seized power.
Defence Minister Edmundo Prez said Thursday that he had not
yet received an explanation from Izurieta regarding the reception
ceremony held for Pinochet.
The former dictator returned home last week after British Home
Secretary Jack Straw released him on humanitarian grounds, thus
cutting short the legal battle for extraditing him to Spain to
stand trial for crimes against humanity in connection with the
more than 3,000 people disappeared and/or killed during the de
Straw based his decision on a medical report by a team of
British physicians that declared the former dictator mentally and
physically unfit to stand trial.
But the crediblity of the report was severely questioned when
on his arrival to Chile, Pinochet stood up from his wheelchair and
walked, smiling and hugging family, friends and supporters - and
looking anything like the frail old man depicted by the British
The Chilean government and human rights groups criticised the
"pomp" with which the armed forces and the right welcomed the
former dictator, pointing out that he was not returning home as a
man who had been found innocent.
The row triggered by Pinochet's welcome ceremony led to the
collapse of an agreement arduously negotiated in civilian-military
talks on human rights that began last August on the initiative of
Defence Minister Prez.
On Wednesday, Prez handed Frei a bulky report on the
negotiating table's work, and the president called for the talks
to continue "above and beyond any provocations" - an allusion to
Pinochet's welcome ceremony.
Izurieta also urged that compulsory military service be
maintained - although in a perfected format. Sectors of civil
society and centre and leftist political groupings have been
calling for the elimination of conscription.
[c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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