Chile tackles army silence on dictatorship crimes
Chile launched a special unit within the army Monday to help investigate abuses committed by late dictator Augusto Pinochet`s regime and uproot pacts of silence protecting perpetrators.
Santiago: Chile launched a special unit within the army Monday to help investigate abuses committed by late dictator Augusto Pinochet`s regime and uproot pacts of silence protecting perpetrators.
The government created the new unit in response to allegations that Chile`s army has suppressed information on human rights violations committed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship, when the regime killed or "disappeared" more than 3,000 people and tortured some 38,000.
"What happened during the dictatorship is difficult for all Chileans. But we`re in the year 2015. Today, we have a military that is looking for a way to make itself an institution for the future," said Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez.
The new unit will not carry out investigations itself, but will work in conjunction with the courts, Gomez said.
It will be headed by former Supreme Court justice Alejandro Solis, who has previously investigated crimes committed by Pinochet`s secret police.
The Chilean courts are currently investigating some 1,000 cases of kidnapping, killing and torture by regime agents.
Prosecutors maintain many of the cases have failed to advance because of pacts of silence within the military binding those involved.
One such case emerged last month, when a former soldier came forward to reveal that an army patrol at an anti-Pinochet protest in 1986 had doused two teenagers in gasoline and set them ablaze.
Photographer Rodrigo Rojas, 19, was killed in the attack and engineering student Carmen Gloria Quintana, then 18, was badly disfigured.
The revelation of the long-buried secret led to the arrest of 12 former officers, reopening a case that had been closed in the 1990s with the conviction of just one officer on a charge of negligence.
Pinochet ousted socialist president Salvador Allende in a coup in 1973 and ruled until 1990, although he stayed on for eight more years as head of the military, giving him immunity from prosecution.
He died in 2006.