Chile's top court acknowledges Pinochet-era 'omissions'

Chile's top court acknowledges Pinochet-era 'omissions'

SANTIAGO - Agence France-Presse
Chiles top court acknowledges Pinochet-era omissions

Chilean Army troops positioned on a rooftop fire on the La Moneda Palace 11 September 1973 in Santiago, during the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet which overthrew Chilean constitutional president Salvador Allende, who died in the attack on the palace. AFP photo

Chile's Supreme Court on Sept. 6 recognized for the first time its "omissions" during Augusto Pinochet's brutal 1973 to 1990 dictatorship, but it declined to apologize to victims and their relatives. The declaration came just under a week before the 40th anniversary of the September 11 coup that brought the general to power, and days after a national judges' association issued an apology to those who sought missing loved ones only to have courts shrug them off.

"We have come to the conviction that there is not other attitude than explicit recognition of the serious acts and omissions that occurred at the time," said Ruben Ballesteros, president of the nation's top court, in a statement after a meeting of the full panel.

Viewed with modern eyes, "it's clearly right to say there was a neglect of (the court's) judicial function," he said.

Chilean courts rejected about 5,000 cases seeking help on locating missing loved ones abducted or killed by the regime, saying they had no information about their fate.

Authorities believe the Cold War-era Pinochet regime was responsible for at least 3,200 killings and 38,000 cases of torture.

However, the court's declaration fell short of asking for forgiveness from victims and their families.

A former president of the court, Milton Juica, who participated in the meeting Sept. 6, told reporters that an eventual apology was considered, but it was decided it should be done in a more "personal" form.

The Chilean judiciary was not taken over by Pinochet, and it was the country's courts that decided to shutter Congress and censure the media.