A Chilean judge has ordered the house arrest of the country’s former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, on human rights charges.
The judge charged Pinochet over the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one dissident during his brutal 17 year regime.
The ruling follows a recent admission from Chile’s armed forces that it systematically tortured and murdered during Pinochet’s dictatorship which began after a coup against the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende in 1973.
Pinochet, who is 89, has escaped earlier efforts to put him on trial for crimes linked to his regime because Chile’s supreme court had accepted in 2001 an assessment that he was physically and mentally incompetent to stand trial. However today in Santiago, Judge Juan Guzman said he made the decision to try the retired general after carefully reviewing an interview he granted to a Spanish language television station in Miami.
The judge said he is convinced Pinochet’s health did not make him unfit to stand trial.
Judge Guzman is investigating the so-called “Operation Condor,” a scheme by the dictatorships that ruled several South American nations in the 1970s and 80s to suppress dissidents.
Viviana Diaz, a member of a group that had some of its members disappear during Pinochet’s regime, said: “This is a historic decision that must be celebrated by all democrats. This is great news for all those Chileans who do not accept impunity in the violations of human rights.”
Pinochet’s lawyers, who argue that his condition continues to deteriorate, are expected to appeal the decision before the supreme court.