On the night of October 16, 1998, London police arrested Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. They were acting on a Spanish warrant charging the former dictator with human rights crimes committed in Chile during his seventeen-year rule.

Although Pinochet was returned to Chile on medical grounds in March 2000, his arrest and detention in London significantly advanced human rights both internationally and in Chile. Indeed, in move of landmark significance, Judge Juan Guzman indicted Pinochet on December 1, 2000, ordering that he be placed under house arrest. While the charges against Pinochet were dropped by the Santiago Appeals Court on December 11 — a ruling subsequently confirmed on technical grounds by Chile's Supreme Court — the Supreme Court ordered that Pinochet be questioned. When this preliminary step in the prosecution has been completed, criminal charges against Pinochet should be reinstated.


Pinochet Escapes Justice
(New York, July 1, 2002) The Chilean Supreme Court's decision to terminate the prosecution of Gen. Augusto Pinochet was regrettable even though widely expected, Human Rights Watch said today. In a ruling made public this afternoon, the court held that the former dictator was too ill to undergo trial for grave human rights crimes, upholding an appeals court ruling issued a year ago.More . . .

Re-instatement of Pinochet Charges Hailed
(New York, January 29, 2001)-- Human Rights Watch hailed today's indictment of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a historic contribution to international justice. The defendant, charged with kidnaping and murder by investigating judge Juan Guzman, now faces arrest, fingerprinting, and other police procedures.More . . .

Keep Pinochet-Era Prosecutions Alive
(New York, January 12, 2001) — Even though the Chilean armed forces have admitted responsibility in the deaths of some 200 people who "disappeared" under military rule, the Chilean courts should continue to prosecute those and all other cases of the "disappeared," Human Rights Watch said today. More . . .

Pinochet to Undergo Questioning
(New York, December 20, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today praised the decision by the Chilean Supreme Court to order Gen. Augusto Pinochet to undergo questioning. More . . .

Chilean Appellate Court Ruling on Pinochet Criticized
(New York, December 11, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today expressed dismay over the Santiago appellate court ruling in favor of General Augusto Pinochet, which dismissed criminal charges filed against Pinochet on December 1. In a unanimous (3-0) decision, the Fifth Chamber of the Santiago Appeals Court granted a habeas corpus writ challenging Pinochet's indictment for ordering kidnappings and extrajudicial executions following the 1973 military coup. More . . .

Pinochet Arrest Hailed
(New York, December 1, 2000) — Human Rights Watch hailed Friday's decision by a Chilean judge to arrest and try former dictator Augusto Pinochet. Judge Juan Guzman indicted Pinochet on a charge of kidnapping, asking that he be held under house arrest and ordering him to face trial in connection with the "disappearances" of prisoners in the first months of his seventeen-year dictatorship. More . . .

Chile Supreme Court Rejects Pinochet Immunity
(Santiago, August 8, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today hailed the Chilean Supreme Court's decision to reject the appeal by Senator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte against a lower court ruling stripping him of his parliamentary immunity. The verdict, in which an overwhelming majority of the court upheld the lifting of immunity, means that Pinochet should now face trial for human rights violations committed at the start of his seventeen-year dictatorship. More . . .

More "Pinochet Style" Prosecutions Urged
(New York, March 3, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today called on abuse victims to use the "Pinochet precedent" to press criminal actions against exiled or traveling officials who have committed atrocities. More . . .

Pinochet Case a Milestone
(New York, March 2, 2000) — Human Rights Watch said today that the arrest of Augusto Pinochet represented a permanent advance in the cause of human rights, despite the decision by British Home Secretary Jack Straw to allow him to return to Chile. More . . .

New Obstacle to Pinochet Prosecution
(New York, February 21, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today condemned a proposed constitutional reform in Chile that would give permanent immunity from prosecution to all former heads of state. More . . .

U.K. Ruling on Pinochet Praised
(London, February 15, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today welcomed a U.K. High Court ruling that Home Secretary Jack Straw should divulge details of the medical examination of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to the four states that are seeking his extradition. More . . .

U.K. Home Secretary Should Back Justice
(London, January 31, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today expressed dismay at being denied the right to question the fairness of the procedure used to assess Augusto Pinochet's fitness to stand trial. It urged British Home Secretary Jack Straw to release to interested parties the medical evaluation of the former Chilean dictator. More . . .

Court Order Sought on Pinochet Medical Judgment
(London, January 24, 2000) — Human Rights Watch has joined with five allied organizations to seek a judicial order preventing the British Home Secretary from releasing Augusto Pinochet without certain basic steps of procedural fairness. More . . .

Straw Urged to Reveal Pinochet Data
(London, January 18, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today urged British Home Secretary Jack Straw to make Augusto Pinochet's medical records available to Spain and the other countries seeking his extradition. More . . .

Pinochet Case a Landmark
(New York, January 12, 2000) — Human Rights Watch said today that the arrest of Augusto Pinochet represented a permanent advance in the cause of human rights, despite the fact that a British medical evaluation may prevent Gen. Pinochet's extradition to Spain. More . . .


The Pinochet Precident: How Victims Can Pursue Human Rights Criminals Abroad

Le précédent Pinochet: Comment les victimes peuvent poursuivre à l'étranger les criminels des droits de l'homme

The fact that Pinochet was arrested, and his claim of immunity was rejected, has already changed the calculus of dictators around the world. The Pinochet case signified the beginning of the end of their impunity.


The charges against Pinochet include the abduction, torture, disappearance, and execution of thousands of political opponents. The crimes for which Pinochet is closest to indictment include his command responsibility for a military task force, popularly known as the "Caravan of Death," which removed scores of prisoners from jail and executed them one month after the 1973 military coup.


The arrest and probable trial in Spain of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet have rekindled hopes of justice for thousands of victims of his brutal seventeen-year rule. The Spanish court's action and the United Kingdom's decision to initiate extradition proceedings reflect a new international determination to bring to an end impunity for crimes against humanity.


Until recently, it seemed that if you killed one person, you went to jail, but if you slaughtered thousands, you usually got away with it. Times change.