Appeal to President Clinton to ensure investigation concerning Pinochet and the Letelier-Moffitt assassination in the US

11 February 2000
Article

We believe it is in the United States' interest to assist in the case against Pinochet.

TNI and the Pinochet precedent

1. CONGRESSIONAL LETTER ON PINOCHET RE-OPENS:
Contact Your Representative Now!

As many of you know, US Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) began circulating a congressional sign-on letter regarding Pinochet in early January. The letter requests that the Clinton Administration support a Spanish or Chilean trial of Pinochet, a thorough US investigation into the Letelier-Moffitt murders, and the declassification of US documents regarding human rights abuses in Chile.

This letter was put on hold due to British Home Secretary Jack Straw's January 11 announcement that he was minded to end extradition proceedings against Pinochet on so-called 'humanitarian grounds' after reviewing reports from a recent medical exam. Belgium and six human rights groups have formally challenged Straw's handling of the medical exams in the British High Court; last week, they were granted a full hearing for judicial review. Pinochet remains in London under house arrest.

The congressional letter has been slightly modified in light of these recent developments in London. The complete text follows below.

It is critical that as many Representatives as possible add their signature to this letter. We urge you to contact your Member of Congress immediately to ask if they have seen the letter and to invite them to sign on. To add their signature, they should contact Dionne Jimenez (Rep. Miller's office) by e-mail Dionne.Jimenez@mail.house.govor at (202) 225-2095. We also ask that organizations that have ongoing relationships with congressional offices bring this letter to their attention.

Please call the foreign policy aide in your representative's office immediately. If you would like their name or contact information or if you have any other questions about the letter, please contact Stacie Jonas at s-jonas@mindspring.com or by phone at (202) 234-9382, ext. 239.

If you are unable to call your representative, you can also e-mail or fax a short note to their office. Please include your full name and address.

EXAMPLE (we encourage you to personalize this letter):
I am writing as a constituent of Representative X to encourage him/her to add his/her name to the sign-on letter regarding former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet that is being circulated by Rep. George Miller and Rep. Maurice Hinchey. The letter requests that the Clinton administration support a Spanish or Chilean trial of Pinochet, a thorough investigation into the murder of Orlando Letelier and US citizen Ronni Karpen Moffitt, and a full release of all US documents pertaining to human rights abuses and the Pinochet regime in Chile. As you may know, at least 3,197 people were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's rule in Chile including American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi; thousands more were tortured or exiled. Pinochet's regime was also responsible for the worst act of terrorism ever committed in our nation's capital - the 1976 car-bomb assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt in Washington DC. I urge Representative X to support the cause of justice & human rights as well as the fight against terrorism by adding his/her name to this letter. If you have any questions or would like to see the full text of the letter, please contact Dionne Jimenez in Rep. Miller's office at Dionne.Jimenez@mail.house.gov or at (202) 225-2095.

2. FULL TEXT OF CONGRESSIONAL LETTER

February 11, 2000

APPEAL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON TO ENSURE THOROUGH INVESTIGATION AND DOCUMENT RELEASE CONCERNING PINOCHET, LETELIER-MOFFITT ASSASSINATION IN US

Dear Colleague,

Please join us in signing the letter below to President Clinton concerning US efforts regarding the Justice Department's ongoing investigation of the murder of a Chilean and an American in Washington, DC in 1976 and the Spanish case against Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

The letter praises the Administration for its efforts to date but also strongly encourages the President to take the necessary steps to ensure a thorough investigation of the murder of Orlando Letelier and his American associate Ronni Karpen Moffitt at the hands of the Chilean secret police. The letter also praises the President for his efforts to declassify documents requested by the Spanish government in its efforts to extradite Gen. Pinochet to Spain to face charges of violations of human rights but also calls on the President to take greater steps to ensure the complete examination and release of relevant US documents. To date, some US agencies have been slow to follow the President's directive to declassify documents.

It is in the United States' interests to see a proper conclusion to the murder investigation and the extradition case. Regardless of whether Pinochet is returned to Chile on humanitarian grounds or not, now is an important time to send a strong message from Congress that the United States cannot simply encourage the rest of the world to fight terrorism but that we too must do our part to support international human rights and justice.

Please contact Dionne Jimenez by e-mail or at x5-2095 to sign the letter. Thank you.

Sincerely,
GEORGE MILLER, M.C.
MAURICE HINCHEY, M.C.

PS: A version of this letter dated January 7 was suspended. The letter below is slightly revised from the original.

February XX, 2000

Dear President Clinton,

We would like to take this opportunity to commend your Administration's recent activity concerning the ongoing investigation into former Chilean General Augusto Pinochet's role in the 1976 car bombing of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington DC We also appreciate your efforts to release documents pertaining to human rights abuses in Chile.

While we applaud these ongoing efforts, we would like to raise a number of concerns. In particular, we wish to urge the following:

  • your full cooperation with the Spanish case against Gen. Pinochet;
  • your pledge of a thorough US investigation of Gen. Pinochet for crimes committed in the United States and against Americans who were living in Chile, and;
  • your assurance that federal agencies will be held accountable for complying with your directive to declassify and release documents pertaining to Pinochet and political violence in Chile and that the declassification process will continue until it has been completed, even if that means planning additional releases of materials.

Full Cooperation with the Spanish Case Against Pinochet

We realize that Pinochet may eventually be returned to Chile based on health concerns; this release is being challenged in the British Courts, however, by Belgium and six human rights groups and has been contested by members of the US Congress, parliamentarians and citizens around the world. Until a final decision is announced to end extradition proceedings against Pinochet, a Spanish trial remains a very real possibility.

Regrettably, the United States has cooperated only in the most cursory manner with the Spanish government's request under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to provide documents and testimony to support the ongoing Spanish case against Pinochet. Only previously declassified materials have been provided to the Spanish. It is imperative that presidential discretion be used to release documents and information which remains classified or otherwise controlled as a result of ongoing criminal investigations.

Aside from this cooperation the Administration has remained conspicuously silent about this historic case. At the United Nations in 1998, you affirmed that the fight against terrorism would be at the top of the US agenda. Expressing support for Spain's right to try Pinochet is certainly in keeping with that goal. US officials have also reportedly encouraged friendly governments to arrest and prosecute Iraqi officials who travel abroad under international treaties relating to crimes against humanity. Silence on the Pinochet case in light of these efforts is, in our view, inconsistent.

As you know, British courts have repeatedly upheld Spain's right to extradite Pinochet for crimes of torture and conspiracy to torture under the provisions of the UN Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Although the Chilean government claims jurisdiction over the Pinochet case, they have not requested his extradition from Britain - an obvious move if they are serious about trying him in Chile. Furthermore, US concerns about the case's negative effects on Chile's democratic transition have proven unfounded. In fact, Pinochet's arrest has helped consolidate democracy in Chile and has led to progress towards holding those responsible for atrocities during Pinochet's regime accountable for their crimes.

We believe it is in the United States' interest to assist in the case against Pinochet. Therefore, we ask you to ensure the release of significant information to the Spanish investigation including, if necessary, still classified information which the Spanish prosecutors can request be declassified for use in the trials in Spain.

Secondly, your Administration should not remain neutral about Spain's right to hold Pinochet accountable for his crimes or to allow him the opportunity to prove his innocence. We urge you to fully uphold the US legal obligation to cooperate with the Spanish investigation, and also to publicly endorse the importance of this case in advancing international law.

If the UK ends extradition proceedings against the General on humanitarian grounds, we urge you to support a Chilean trial of Pinochet and to cooperate fully with any Chilean investigation. Under Chilean law, only mental derangement is grounds for deeming a defendant unfit for trial. Chilean Judge Juan Guzman, who oversees nearly 60 cases against Pinochet, has recently stated that conversations with Pinochet's lawyers leave him convinced that Pinochet is in perfectly good mental health, although he has agreed to request another medical exam before pursuing a trial.

Support for a Thorough US Investigation

We applaud the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into Pinochet's role in the 1976 murders of Chilean Orlando Letelier and US citizen Ronni Karpen Moffitt in Washington DC. Several people involved in the previous US investigation into this case, including two FBI agents and an Assistant US Attorney, have stated publicly that it is 'inconceivable' that the assassination could have occurred without Pinochet's authorization. Furthermore, Chilean General Manuel Contreras, who is currently serving a prison term in Chile for the murders, has stated clearly that he took his orders exclusively from Pinochet.

Unfortunately, Chilean officials are making it difficult for the Justice Department to obtain that evidence. Despite previous public statements by the Chileans to cooperate with the US government, there has been no agreement between the Chilean government and the US government to allow US investigators to conduct field interviews with prospective Chilean witnesses. Letters rogatory and other formal procedures are necessary to compel the cooperation of certain witnesses but should not be necessary in the espoused atmosphere of cooperation between Chile and the United States. Last September, Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes predicted that a US case would not be riddled with the controversy over jurisdiction that has plagued the Spanish case because the murders were committed on US soil and involved the death of a US citizen.

Despite these encouraging statements, the Chilean government has yet to allow Justice Department officials into the country to take testimony and gather evidence. Without this access, the investigation will be seriously hindered.

We urge you to ensure that the Justice Department investigation is conducted in a timely and thorough manner and is allowed to continue if Pinochet is returned to Chile on humanitarian grounds. Even if Pinochet is never brought to trial in the US, it is crucial to establish a public record of his responsibility for this crime and work towards an indictment. We believe that with presidential support the very capable US ambassador to Chile, John O'Leary, can achieve an agreement to allow voluntary interviews. In addition, we request that you appoint a presidential envoy to engage the Chilean government and the various other governments that are investigating cases involving victims of Operation Condor, the six-country cooperative effort that led to international assassination, torture and disappearances. The United States successfully fought for justice against Gen. Contreras. We expect similar action with regard to Pinochet.

Support for US Document Release

The first two releases last year of US documents pertaining to human rights abuses in Chile have yielded a great deal of important information.

Nevertheless, we believe that there are many significant documents that have not been released. Many of these documents would be useful to the Spanish case against Pinochet, the ongoing US investigation, and other pending cases against Pinochet and Chilean military officials. They are also meaningful for the families of Pinochet's victims who seek the truth about what happened to their missing loved ones.

We request that you ensure that all agencies involved fully comply with your request for declassification and the spirit of your recent statement that US citizens 'deserve to know what happened back then and why'. We ask that you instruct the agencies and each investigative organization to release the maximum amount of information, including documents identified in the course of investigative activity, as soon as the release of the information will not imperil active prosecutions.

When the next installment of documents is released in June 2000, we hope to see a much larger portion of the story uncovered. Moreover, we request that you indicate publicly that it is the intention of the US government to release the maximum amount of information as soon as it is no longer needed for ongoing prosecutions and that you allow the release process to continue indefinitely until everything in question is released.

We also urge that you instruct all US agencies to complete the processing of information and materials relating to Operation Condor and to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination first in order to support ongoing investigative activities in the US, Spain, Argentina, Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Chile.

A Chilean government report indicates that 3,197 people were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's rule in Chile; this number does not reflect the thousands who survived torture, arbitrary arrest or exile. US citizens Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi, and Ronni Moffitt lost their lives at the hands of Pinochet's bloody dictatorship. We believe that the truth must be told and that Pinochet be held accountable for his role in these terrible crimes.

Thank you again for your efforts in this matter. With the help of your Administration, Chileans and Americans both can move closer toward bringing an end to this devastating chapter of history.

Sincerely,
George Miller, M.C., Maurice Hinchey, M.C., and other Members of Congress.

Cc: Hon. Albert Gore, Vice President
Hon. Janet Reno, Attorney General
Hon. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State
Hon. Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor