Why Pinochet must go to trial
For those like the author, whose husband died in Chile, forgiveness hasto wait for a full disclosure of the truth.
Weighing questions of justice, forgiveness, and healing in the case of Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet is difficult. General Pinochet's forces killed my husband, Charlie, in 1973. Charlie was a civil- and human-rights activist as well as a journalist ferociously interested in what makes the world tick. It's still hard not to weep when I tell about his abduction and murder and how difficult it was to look for him, to learn who took him, why, where, and to what end. I'm always moved when I think of the strength and courageous love it took for Charlie's father, Edmund, to travel to Santiago to look for him with me in those terror-filled months following Pinochet's overthrow of Salvador Allende. Without Ed, we would never have learned anything, and I, too, may never have gotten back to New York. Charlie's body was eventually found and returned to us. But the details of his arrest and interrogation were never divulged by the Chilean government. And his murder - undoubtedly at the hands of Chilean officials who had an iron grip on everything in Chile - never was acknowledged. The mute disregard over the decades has polished the hurt to a hardness for the thousands of us who lost friends and family to the brutality of the Pinochet regime. So it is a moral relief that Pinochet is being held in London pending extradition to Spain, which seeks to try him on charges of genocide and human rights abuses. It has rekindled the hope that he will be tried for his crimes and that the truth will emerge. Is there a statute of limitations on justice for torture and murder? What is considered atonement for crimes of such magnitude? If there is atonement and restitution, can forgiveness then occur? Does anyone ever become too old to require atonement? Does any nation forgive murder and torture? Does the United States government forgive terrorism? On what basis does forgiveness for such high crimes occur? I - and others related to victims of Pinochet's regime - am not ready to forgive him, even if, as his supporters claim, he is an infirm grandfather who should be left alone. Pinochet's forces abducted, tortured, and murdered more than 3,000 people in his overthrow of Allende's democratically elected government. Pinochet still denies responsibility for any of it, even though as head of the military he planned and directed the coup. During his rule from 1973 to 1990, anyone who opposed him risked being "disappeared" by his minions. The climate of terror under Pinochet was magnified by the abolition of Chile's legal system. No one abducted by Pinochet's forces had any rights, lawyers, or recourse. Many were abducted when the military forced entry to their homes and took their whole family away to prisons of torture. And Pinochet's methods extended the terrorism beyond Chilean borders. Orlando Letelier, Allende's ambassador to the US, was killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C., with Ronnie Moffet, an American. Carlos Prats, Army chief General under Allende, was bombed and killed in Argentina with his wife. Bernardo Leighton, Christian Democratic leader, and his wife were shot in Italy, though they survived. Now, 25 years later, Pinochet is under arrest. He may now have the opportunity to experience a legal system brought to him courtesy of his favorite countries, Spain and England. Pinochet will now experience rights and responsibilities he did not offer - to people like Charlie - during his 17-year rule. Why is this so important? Because the truth must still come out. The only way that can happen is for Britain to extradite Pinochet to Spain for trial. After 25 years of denial, coverup, and impunity, Pinochet has shown no remorse, no sorrow for his deeds. Instead, he and his forces continue to deny, cover up, and intimidate. Even now, those in Chile courageous enough to speak out about Pinochet's legacy of human rights abuses receive death threats. Pinochet fashioned a constitution for Chile that protected him from retribution, and when he stepped down as the head of the military he did so only with a lifetime senatorship that protects him from prosecution in Chile. Pinochet's trial in Spain, with testimony from victims all over the world, would reveal details that have been covered up for decades, and make the truth available to all. If it happens, then the world can consider how Pinochet can work out a path to forgiveness. Joyce Horman is a software marketer and artist in New York City. Her husband's 1973 disappearance in Chile was the subject of the 1982 Constantine Costa-Gavras film 'Missing.'