Proceedings closed concerning the "Caravan of Death", the assassination of General Prats and the "Plan Condor"; immunity denied in the Colombo case and the Villa Grimaldi case; Pinochet died on December 10, 2006
On 11 September 1973 Augusto Pinochet, then Commander-in-Chief of the army since 22 August 1973, with the support of the USA, led a military coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected government of the socialist Salvatore Allende. Pinochet became self-appointed president of Chile and set up a military dictatorship that was very repressive towards political opponents. The regime ended in 1990 but Pinochet remained Commander-in-Chief of the army until 11 March 1998. He then obtained a senator-for-life position, which he left in 2002 because of health problems.
Acts of torture, abductions, forced disappearances and summary executions were committed during the dictatorship. The elected government which succeeded Pinochet published, on 4 March 1991, an official report listing 3,197 deaths and 967 disappearances during the 17 years of Pinochet's presidency. The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture, set up in August 2003, transmitted to President Ricardo Lagos, on 11 November 2004, a report indicating that torture was practised systematically under the Pinochet regime.
More than 200 criminal complaints were filed against Pinochet in Chile by close relatives of the victims. The proceedings, conducted mainly by Judge Juan Guzman Tapia, were based on two events. First, the abduction of 75 political opponents followed by the summary execution of 56 of them and the disappearance of 19 others: these acts were committed by a military unit known by the name of the "Caravan of Death" which criss-crossed the country in the months following the coup d’état. The second event related to the so-called "Operation Condor", a quasi network of all the Secret Services of the South-American dictatorships (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) whose purpose was to eliminate political opponents abroad. The Chilean Secret Service (the DINA), under the command of Manuel Contreras, a close ally of Pinochet, was thought to have played an important, if not fundamental, role in promoting this project. Manuel Contreras was judged and convicted in Chile. It was during his trial in 1997 that Pinochet’s responsibility as the real head of the DINA became apparent.
Pinochet's responsibility could also be proven in a third case, namely the assassination of Carlos Prats, whom Pinochet succeeded as Commander-in-Chief. This case became the object of a new request to have the immunity of the ex-dictator lifted.
Arrested in London in 1998 (see Augusto Pinochet Ugarte), Pinochet spent more than 500 days there in detention. He went back to Chile in March 2000.