Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chile: Widow of Charles Horman Seeks Justice

The widow of slain U.S. journalist Charles Horman said that she is continuing to seek for justice in his death that occurred days after the 1973 military coup d’état in Chile.

“(Charles Harmon’s) story is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago, and makes the cases against those responsible just as pressing,” wrote Joyce Horman in an article published in The Guardian on the fortieth anniversary of the coup.

She described how she “feared the worst” when she discovered that her husband disappeared on September 17, 1973 and the frustration against who hindered her efforts to locate her husband.

“In the days and weeks that followed, Charles' father, Ed Horman, and I sought the help of American officials. Rather than aiding our search, however, they inquired about our social circles, and asked if we had been "annoying" the Chileans… Charles was transformed from an American citizen who was entitled to protection, to a vulnerable and disposable threat to powerful forces” by U.S. officials,” claimed Joyce.

One month after he was kidnapped, Joyce was informed that Charles was executed by the military and was buried in the walls of the national stadium in Santiago.
The Horman case became the inspiration for the award-winning 1982 film “Missing” by the director Costa-Gavras.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government would deny any involvement in Horman’s death until 1999 when a declassified 1976 State Department memo admitted, “U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate part.”  These and other documents were instrumental in the 2011 indictment in a Chilean court of ex-U.S. Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis.  Davis was accused of providing Chilean military intelligence agents with information on Horman and Frank Teruggi, another U.S. citizen killed in Chile in 1973.

Chilean officials last year approved the extradition from the U.S. of Davis but thus far it hasn’t been served.

“If and when that happens, it would set an important precedent for a US military officer to be charged by another country for the death of American citizens,” Joyce mentioned.

Joyce Harmon is one of the scores of family members of the thousands of people killed, imprisoned or tortured during Chile’s military rule who have sought justice. 

“It has been tough to keep fighting for 40 years but Victor's case is so important not just for us, but for all the families that are still suffering because of the brutality and the terrible crimes committed in those years,” said Joan Jara, the wife of the late Chilean folk singer Victor Jara. 

Last week she filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court against former Chilean army officer Pedro Barrientos and accused him of involvement in her husband’s murder.

Politicians including President Sebastián Piñera and former leader Michelle Bachelet pushed for reconciliation but for some Chileans such actions feel empty:
At a series of memorial marches this week, one participant after another said apologies are cheap. What’s hard, they say, is finding more than 1,000 bodies of people who were arrested by Pinochet’s state and never seen again, and to bring to justice those who killed 3,200 political opponents and tortured 38,000 more

Maria Jose Pérez, coordinator of the human rights center Londres 38, says the state has yet to make fundamental reforms. “The disappeared didn’t end with the dictatorship,” Ms. Jose Pérez says, referring to an arrest in 2005 in which the detainee was never seen again.

As she spoke, artists associated with Londres 38 hung city-approved banners from bridges, several of them bearing questions such as “Where are the disappeared?”
Late that night, special forces from the national police removed the banners.
In 2011, Chile’s National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture concluded that 40,018 were killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during the Pinochet regime.

Video Source– YouTube via Democracy Now

Online Sources – The Telegraph; Christian Science Monitor; GlobalPost; The Guardian;

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